Sun | Aug 19, 2018

The cost of electricity

Published:Saturday | September 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM


We have been holding our breaths waiting on the wonderful Dr Vin Lawrence and his crew to sort out the mess surrounding the awarding of contracts for the construction of new generating capacity. Without doubt, this must happen as at US$0.42 per kilowatt hour the country is slowly bleeding to death and will certainly remain poor and become poorer.

An article in the Economist of April 2014 highlights the disadvantages of coal but also reasons for retaining it as a preferred fuel for many years to come.

It is acknowledged that coal is dirty, it is expensive to build a clean plant, transportation has environmental problems, and the emission of carbon dioxide is not good for the planet.

Having said that, the fact is that poverty kills far more people than coal-fired power stations do. Poverty leaves poor people in malnutrition and vulnerable to disease. Many big coal-burning companies such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy are shutting coal fired plants.

utilising coal

Notwithstanding, the Federal Energy Information Administration predicts that by 2040 the US will still be generating 22 per cent of its electricity from coal and no matter what the US and even China do, India and Africa, in their efforts to improve their peoples conditions, are utilising coal because it is the cheapest source of energy to fuel their economic development.

Japan is turning to coal because of a nuclear disaster it suffered recently. Nevertheless, the price of coal remains cheap and will continue to be cheap because it is plentiful and is found in countries that are politically stable.

Here in Jamaica it seems that our choice is very simple. It could be described as a no brainer. While the industrialised world for the next 50 years and beyond, will continue to utilise coal as a primary power source because it is so cost-effective, and while India and Africa seek to develop their industrial capacity and will be utilising coal for the foreseeable future, there is no basis for this island to place itself at a further competitive disadvantage by burning any fuel other than coal.

Malcolm McDonald