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Jamaica seeks to boost green energy


Sugar industry offers perfect opportunity for biogas


Jamaica is set to issue a call for tenders to boost renewable energy production on the island, with biogas featuring as a key part of the future energy mix.

An announcement is due before the end of the year, Fitzroy Vidal, the principal director for energy at the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology has said. Speaking at the Jamaica Alternative Energy Conference in New Kingston, Mr Vidal said, “I believe that this year, 2019, is the year of the next request for proposals.”

Jamaica’s current generation mix is heavily oil dependent. In its latest country report, the World Watch Institute says, “Jamaica is hostage to oil and needs to diversify its energy mix. Astoundingly, in 2010, the country’s oil imports exceeded its exported goods in value by 118 percent.”

The report highlights the potential for biogas centred round the country’s well-established sugar industry. Utilising bagasse, the fibrous material that remains after juice extraction, it says in 2011 “the industry had the potential to export about 152 gigawatts hours of electricity, or about 3.7 percent of electricity demand”.

It continues, “This share will increase significantly if processing efficiency is improved and capacity is increased. By investing in efficient cogeneration power plants that are supported by the Clean Development Mechanism, the sugar industry can make windfall profits”

Renewable energy dividend

In 2010, Jamaica initiated a new energy policy with long-term targets for fuel diversification and renewable energy use. The plan stipulates that by 2030, the primary energy mix should include a 70 percent non-oil-based supply.

Jamaica last opened bidding in 2016 for an additional 37 megawatts of renewable energy, which followed on the 115MW bid for renewables in 2013. Renewables account for about 15 per cent of energy output.

John Marcocchio, energy specialist at Deloitte, told the conference that any shift to renewables would boost the island’s economic outlook.

“Fourteen per cent of foreign exchange is spent on oil, more or less. If we only displace 10 per cent, then we would add 1.4 percentage points more to our GDP. It is enough to help pay down on external debt, without increasing taxation. Government and the consumers will benefit from lower costs and make the economy more competitive,” he said.

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