Last Thursday Jamaica’s scientists and policymakers participated in a forum at The University of the West Indies (UWI), entitled “100 per cent Clean, the Why and How of Jamaica’s Transition from Imported Fossil Fuels to Natural Resources.” Chair of the forum Gerald Lindo, United States Agency for International Development project management specialist for energy, opened by declaring that “Climate Change is the direst situation faced by civilisation.”
Professor Anthony Chen, member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with former US Vice-President Al Gore and Professor of Applied Atmospheric Physics, led the discussion. He noted that Jamaica had joined with the NGO 350.org, which states as its purpose: “Cut CO2 emissions and build a global movement for climate solutions”. Last Saturday 350.org led a worldwide campaign, #RiseforClimate, stating, “It’s a beautiful time to really feel global unity in the struggle for just climate action.”
Jamaica has been making some headway in renewable energy: Prof Chen shared that solar, wind and hydro generation accounted for between 15 and 20 per cent of our energy supply. He acknowledged that the cost of installation of renewables was costly but that this was steadily becoming less expensive.
Prof Chen sees the day when renewables will cost much less than fossil fuel energy generation and is calling for a national spatial plan, mapping for wind, solar and hydro installations. He said that the tragic floods in Kerala and the extensive fires in California are awakening the world to the danger of global warming. California, he noted, had committed to 50 per cent energy generation by renewables in 2025, and 100 per cent by 2050.
Panellists Dr Masa Ashtine and Dr Randy Koon Koon convinced us that, indeed, we can change our climate for the better, as they discussed applications, integration and socio-economic pathways. Dr Ashtine referred to the extensive solar installations at Lady Hamilton Grand Palladium in Hanover and Wisynco in St Catherine. I can add the multimillion-dollar Rainforest installations in both Montego Bay and Kingston. He gave us the big news that in my home parish of Westmoreland, financing had been secured for a 51-MW plant that will represent a quarter of Jamaica’s renewable energy portfolio.
Dr Ashtine foresaw JPS moving to micro-grids, guaranteeing greater energy efficiency. Dr Koon applauded the US$21.6 million JPS hybrid energy plant, the first of its kind in the Caribbean. He said with the continued installation of renewables, Jamaica can reduce electricity cost by 67 per cent.
Therefore, we were heartened when Professor Alvin Wint took the podium and explained that the Generation Procuring Entity (GPE) which he chairs has as one of its operating protocols special consideration for the procurement of renewable energy. His organisation, in conjunction with the PIOJ under the guidance of Professor Michael Taylor, dean of the UWI Faculty of Science and Technology, has soberly acknowledged “what Jamaica will look like if we don’t act”.
He said the existing power plants will peak in 2020 and the plan is to phase out these heavily fossilfuel-dependent plants and install renewables, the cost of which is trending down. He sees this as “important to Jamaica’s competitive advantage”. We must count first on ourselves, on academia, Government, business and civil society to stay in step with global efforts to literally save our planet.
We have to thank Dr Tannecia Stephenson, head of the Department of Physics, for convening an important forum. We understand that this outstanding Convent of Mercy Alpha graduate returned to her alma mater to teach for two years before continuing her postgraduate studies. What a good example: giving back to her school in a brilliant and practical way.
Credit: Jean Lowrie-Chin, Jamaica Observer