Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Gov't should take more practical steps to go solar

Published:Friday | March 23, 2012 | 12:00 AM

... Former finance minister suggests after deep thinking

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

FORMER MINISTER of Finance Audley Shaw said on Wedsnesday that being absent from government has allowed him the opportunity to engage in deeper thinking.

Shaw made the comment while making his contribution to a debate on the third supplementary estimates in the House of Representatives.

"I am not going to be intimidated at the fact that only a few months ago I was a minister," Shaw said as he suggested that the Government invest in solar panels to power state buildings.

"The truth is that I am not in your seat any more, so maybe I can think a little bit more now," Shaw quipped.

The former minister said the cost of paying the Jamaica Public Service to provide electricity to the public purse is too expensive.

"It is not good enough for the minister of energy to tell us that he is going solar," Shaw said.

"What we want the Government to also tell us is that the entire government should go solar. We should immediately do an assessment of every government building to see how many of them have a nice, long, flat roof. Let us have a supplementary estimate one day and get thousands of panels to start capture Massa God energy from the heavens," Shaw said.

In a third supplementary estimates tabled in Parliament this week, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips has made provision to pay an additional $1.9 billion for electricity bills.

Of the amount, $1.2 billion relates to street lights and $673 million for bills accrued by central government ministries, departments and agencies.

North Central St Andrew MP Karl Samuda, as well as Shaw, called for measures to reduce the electricity bill. Samuda described as contradictory any move which seeks to reduce consumption of electricity while at the same time expanding the provision of street lights across the island.

Phillip Paulwell, the energy minister, said the board of the Rural Electrification Programme (REP) has been given specific instructions to find unconventional methods to provide street lights to rural communities.

"They are going to be now looking to include solar photovoltaic equipment, and also incorporating the learnings that we have had in wind and so on, and there are some resources under PetroCaribe which will provide some assistance where that is concerned," Paulwell said.

He added: "The aim is not to add additional capacity to the grid to service REP, but rather to have stand-alone renewable sources being established by the REP."

Dr Phillips said an increase in fuel cost has compounded the country's problems in paying for electricity and has called for conservation on the use of electricity.

In its 2011 general election manifesto, the now governing People's National Party said it would be switching over 90,000 street lamps to solar photovoltaic with the immediate effects of lowering its electricity bill.

It also said the Government would be mandating the increased use of renewable sources of energy and the increased use of energy-efficient equipment and processes in government agencies and departments.