Sun | Dec 4, 2022

‘Poor people can introduce solar’

Paulwell urges more public education to achieve 2030 renewable energy goal

Published:Friday | September 30, 2022 | 12:06 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

Former energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, has charged that the involvement of all Jamaicans is necessary, if the country is to achieve its 2030 goal for renewable energy.

Jamaica has set a target of achieving 33 per cent of electricity generation from renewables by 2030 and 50 per cent by 2037.

“Poor people can introduce solar. You don’t have to do it for the entire house. You can do it for water heating or refrigeration. You can put up two panels and dedicate them to a particular appliance. Whether it’s water heating or lighting, it can be so configured that you separate it from what the grid provides,” he told The Gleaner in an interview ahead of the 2022 staging of RE+ in Anaheim, California.

The US Embassy Kingston supported a Jamaican delegation which attended the largest renewable energy event in North America, from September 19 to 22.

Paulwell, who served as energy minister between 2002 and 2007 and then 2012 to 2016, shared that when he became minister, the focus was on diversification because at that time 96 to 98 per cent of Jamaica’s generated electricity was done using fossil fuel.

He said the country currently generates about 60 per cent of its energy from LNG, approximately 20 per cent from renewables and the remainder from fossil fuels.

INTEGRATED RESOURCE PLAN

“I support us moving to 50 per cent, but we haven’t seen any indication that the government is moving in this direction. We have been hearing promises of doing requests for proposals. There was this integrated resource plan that was supposed to be done to determine the future generation needs, but these have just been announcements and nothing more,” he lamented.

He said up to 2016, Jamaica led the English-speaking Caribbean in renewables, but has since fallen behind.

Paulwell reasoned that Cuba which had no wind capacity in 2005 when the PetroCaribe agreement was signed, replicated Jamaica’s model at Wigton Windfarm, and today has four times the wind capacity of Wigton.

The former minister proposed what he described as practical ways that the Jamaican Government can accelerate the achievement of the 2030 goal for renewables, arguing that more public education is needed.

He urged micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to apply for energy audit grants from the Development Bank of Jamaica.

The programme provides a grant of $200,000 to businesses to conduct an energy audit of their facility, which will assist them to make informed decisions regarding energy efficiency measures and their energy-saving potential.

Second, he said business operators in special economic zones can be mandated to generate 50 per cent of their energy from renewables.

AGGRESSIVE APPROACH

“We have to take a more aggressive approach to getting more people to participate in what other countries are seeing as the solution to this crisis of energy that we continue to face,” Paulwell said.

Paulwell added that Jamaica has not fully exploited its hydropower potential.

He said through funding from the World Bank, the feasibility of hydropower was explored in a number of rivers.

That study determined that Jamaica is capable of generating about 40 megawatts additional capacity of hydropower.

“We are not going to get anywhere near 50 per cent, if by this year we don’t see procurement going out for at least 150 megawatts of renewables and that every three or four years, we have that kind of large input in the mix and continue to encourage individuals and businesses to transform their usage of renewables,” he remarked.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com