How can Jamaica lower the costs of energy? (Part I)

October 2nd, 2015

by Lumas Kendrick

Energy Education:

Jamaica is confronting the daunting challenge of developing a national growth agenda to invigorate the economy and raise living standards for all Jamaicans. Economic growth however is inextricably linked to the cost of energy.  Unfortunately with no oil, natural gas, coal, or large hydro power resources, Jamaica has a narrow range of options at its disposal to bring down the cost of energy.  Thus the question arises, “How can Jamaica lower the costs of energy in general and the cost of electricity in particular?”

The reality is that energy is tied to virtually all aspects of society and the problem solutions can be technically, economically and legally challenging.  Energy discussions are often dominated by energy sector professionals with advanced and specific knowledge of the sector.  While finding their businesses impacted by high energy costs, non-technical professionals are often left to their own devices to decipher complex discussions regarding petroleum fuel products, natural gas, wind, solar, waste-to-energy, biofuels, energy efficiency and net-metering to name just a few topics.

In an effort to “raise the bar” in terms of quality of energy education for non-technical professionals in Jamaica, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Civil Society Consulting Group (ConSOC); The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and The University of Technology (UTech) joined forces to organize a one-day short course specifically targeting the energy education needs of non-technical professionals.


(from left) Lumas Kendrick, IDB Sr. Energy Specialist,; Therese Turner-Jones IDB-Country Representative;, Christopher Brown-DBJ Business Development Manager; Dr Ruth Potopsingh, UTech Associate Vice-President, & IDB ConSOC Member,  and Dr Earl Green, IDB Consultant-Sustainable Energy & Engineering

The workshop entitled, “De-Mystifying the Energy Sector”, was held at the University of Technology, in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday July 23, 2015.  The workshop was designed for non-technical professionals, with the objectives of: (1) conducting a broad discussion on the global and local energy sectors, so as to put Jamaica’s energy reality in context, and (2) to provide a forum to examine the issues associated with Jamaica’s electricity costs and the options available for improving Jamaica’s energy landscape.

I began the morning session with a discussion on the global energy industry, examining the primary energy sources used for electricity generation such as coal, hydro power, natural gas, nuclear power and oil.


Source: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2011, April 2011, DOE/EIA-0383(2011)

As Jamaica depends heavily on oil for its electricity generation, there was extensive discussion about the oil market, the reasons for the oil price collapse, the long term price prognosis, and the implications for Jamaica’s economy.

Our discussion focused on renewable energy and the prospects of deploying them in Jamaica.  One participant asked, “Jamaica has lots of sunshine! Why are there not solar panels on every roof-top? Is there a conspiracy to keep Jamaica tied to using oil?”  This question resonated with the audience, as there is the general sense that Jamaica should be able to meet all of its energy needs using wind and solar energy.  We explored the cost of renewable technologies and more importantly the technical challenges of integrating renewable energy safely into an electricity system that was designed to run on fossil fuels.  It’s not always that simple to move to renewable energy.


Photo courtesy of Wigton Wind Farm

Stay tuned to read part 2 of our discussion on Jamaican Energy.

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3 Responses to “How can Jamaica lower the costs of energy? (Part I)”

  1. Wayne Johnson says:

    I fully support the brainstorm of reducing the energy bill to five hundred million fro the present one billion by sharing and retrofitting only the source that create opportunities ETC such as solar and wind Hydroelectric Copy walkers wood Mistakes to suggestion and the type of response of been very tardy to Associated observe make changes and return to profit in one year to pay off the death to the South since they missed the BPS deal ETC

    Electromagnetic energy and rail service ASAP

  2. Alfred Loweching says:

    To have a conversation about energy, nuclear must be mention.
    The days of thinking about nuclear as bad is as old as the objectors. We are living in an advancing world and we must apply today’s advancement to solve our problems.
    Yes, if there is an accident there could be lost of lives. But, come on now, how many Jamaicans were murdered over the past ten years

  3. JOHN ANTHONY says:

    Humans are quite amazing religious beings. As I do worldwide reading I have come across several countries and locales that have seen retail electricity prices skyrocket after aggressive expansion of renewable energies. Ontario has seen prices triple, Germany, Australia, Scotland Denmark, Japan, Hawaii etc have all seen prices jump significantly. Germany as a result has seen millions disconnect from the grid. Many of these countries have subsidies for renewable energies and yet prices have zoomed.

    So how does Jamaica expect to decrease prices from rolling out renewables? Is your faith stronger than the laws of Physics? PLease explain.