February 2, 2015

Paulwell Reports Strong Support for Renewable Energy Policy in Jamaica

Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell says Government's policy shift on alternative energy, including the provision of incentives, is resulting in greater use of and investments in renewable options.

Under the policy, Government is facilitating access to low interest rate loans for businesses and homeowners to enable them to procure renewable energy systems, particularly for solar devices.

"We have (also) removed taxation from solar (systems). In fact, the Government has provided incentives for solar batteries to facilitate solar generation of electricity," Paulwell said.

"Also, we have introduced a net billing policy and, so far, I have signed and issued just about 220 licences to Jamaicans to enable them to generate electricity using, primarily, solar systems, and to be able to sell the excess capacity to the grid," he said.

The minister was addressing a recent public forum on the topic: 'The New Caribbean Energy Professional for the New Energy Paradigm', at the University of the West Indies' Mona campus.

Government, more than a year ago, began a targeted series of policy shifts to enable and encourage investment in renewable energy projects. As part of the measure, the provision that gave the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica the exclusive right to develop all renewable energy projects in Jamaica was removed. The Office of Utilities Regulation subsequently issued a 'request for proposals' to procure up to 115 megawatts of energy generated from renewable sources.

Paulwell said ministry surveys conducted islandwide showed that, "we are witnessing such a dramatic uptake in the use of photovoltaic (PV) equipment to generate electricity in Jamaica".

PV is a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semi-conducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. A PV system comprises solar panels composed of a number of cells to supply usable power.

"So far, from those private sources (issued with licences), we are generating just under about two megawatts of capacity (for the national power grid); but there is still room for tremendous growth in this area. I know that there are many persons who are putting in systems and are not (applying) for licences... (but) are finding that it makes sense to (make) the investment, because of the (potential) savings," the minister said.

Paulwell said it was anticipated that renewable energy technology, particularly solar, "is going to improve", adding that over time, "I believe that (renewable energy) will be better (for us) than fossil fuel".

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