EDITORIAL - Consumers must conserve
The first indication that this Government is serious about energy conservation came this week when the five per cent import duty on LED bulbs and solar water heaters was removed.
In this age of high electricity costs, it is estimated that replacing traditional light bulbs with LED bulbs guarantees both practical and aesthetic advantages over incandescent and fluorescent lights. They are energy efficient, long-lasting, and offer clear, consistent light. Importantly, LED bulbs may cut, by 25 per cent, the amount of energy needed to illuminate a room. By this one act, therefore, a significant number of householders will now have a better opportunity to be a part of the conservation efforts.
In advising of the changes to the Customs Act, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said the adjustment was in keeping with the "Government's overall policy of encouraging energy conservation".
With petroleum for fuelling the country's energy sector accounting for 88 per cent of goods and services imported, it became an imperative for the Government to devise and implement energy-efficiency and conservation measures.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provided a US$20-million investment loan to assist the Government in meeting its objectives of implementing energy-efficiency and energy-conservation measures with the intention of making the public sector a model for the responsible use of energy by cutting electricity cost by 30 per cent over four years.
Three main vehicles were designed to tackle the problem, namely: Jamaica's National Energy Policy 2009-2030; the National Energy Conservation and Efficiency Policy 2010-2030 and the National Renewable Energy Policy 2010-2030.
PLETHORA OF PROBLEMS
An IDB energy audit of the public sector found a litany of problems such as low efficiency of water pump operations, old motors and other equipment, low levels of preventative maintenance at the NWC which accounts for more than half of Government's energy expenditure, obsolete lighting equipment in public buildings, energy leakage because of lack of insulation in public buildings, and old, energy-sucking, split-unit air-conditioning units.
But for a few police stations that are participating in a project to replace lighting fixtures and insulate windows and doors, the national energy-saving successes are not really noticeable. And if the blazing lights on the unoccupied Vale Royal grounds are anything to go by, as well as the ubiquitous old emergency exit signs which are working 24-7, it is hard to imagine that public sector 12 per cent energy consumption will be reduced in the foreseeable future.
Energy-conservation measures must necessarily include people, lighting, appliances and water. And even if new efficient power plants are being built, conservation efforts must be employed to save energy.
Experts say lighting upgrades offer substantial energy savings, so with the import duty being removed, it is anticipated that LED lighting will become more affordable for the average householder.
If Government is serious about getting everyone involved in a national conservation effort, why are there no experts available to do free home energy assessments to help householders make sensible energy decisions? Why are there no rebates and special consideration for those who invest in energy-efficient products?
While householders remain powerless to stop the monopoly Jamaica Public Service Company from hiking rates with impunity, they can make an impact on their bills by starting an aggressive programme of conservation within their own homes.
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