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Paulwell warns against energy complacency

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 2:16 PMChristopher Serju

Even with the recent significant fall in the price of crude oil on the world market, the Jamaican Government remains committed to increasing its involvement, as well as promoting foreign direct investment in renewable energy-generation options, in keeping with its long-term objective to improve the country's energy security.

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said last Friday that the lessons from the energy crisis of the early 1970s show it would be foolhardy to relax policies on energy diversification because of low or falling prices on the world market.

"This energy situation won't go (away) with the fleeting period of low oil prices," he warned. "The (high) prices will be with us forever if we don't do the changes now that are absolutely necessary," he told a workshop on 'Keeping Energy Issues in the News' at The Knutsford Court Hotel in St Andrew.

The workshop, hosted by the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, was targeted at media houses with journalists presented with a media tool kit for use in helping to raise public awareness about the need for, and importance of, making energy conservation and efficiency a way of life for all.

Paulwell said this formal engagement of the media was in recognition of the critical role it can play in helping to achieve the necessary behaviour change at all levels in the society that is necessary for reducing the national fuel bill in the first place, and achieving energy security in the long run.

Jamaica spends an estimated US$2 billion per year to buy more than 19 million barrels of crude oil, with each person using about 1,129 litres, a situation the minister insists is unsustainable.

"We have to get a change in our entire behaviour because we are a poor country, and it has to change at government but also at the private sector and individual level," he appealed.

"The figures show, of course, energy represents a tremendous amount of resources for our country, and the narrative of the story is changing and will continue to change as we diversify the energy mix and try to encourage greater levels of conservation and efficiency."


37,000 barrel reduction


In addition to reducing the country's imported fossil fuel bill, the energy ministry is also seeking to get Jamaicans to appreciate environmental benefits that will accrue from a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

In addition to breaking ground recently for the generation of an additional 24 megawatts of energy to supplement the 38.7 megawatts at the Wigton Windfarm in Manchester, which has resulted in a reduction of 37,000 barrels of oil per year, the minister last Wednesday lauded the construction of another facility in Malvern, St Elizabeth, to provide an additional 36 megawatts of wind-generated electricity.

"I was again breaking ground, not talking about things, not signing contracts, but breaking ground for actual construction to commence in the hills of Malvern by BMR, an American company ... an investment amount of J$10.2 billion; and in another couple of weeks we will start construction of a 20-megawatt solar photovoltaic system that will be the largest solar facility in the English-speaking Caribbean," Paulwell proudly disclosed.

This is in addition to improving on the 20 megawatts of electricity generated from hydropower, he explained.