“The Real Currency is Energy”: Minister Wheatley speaks at UWI Energy Policy Workshop

Do you know about Build Better Jamaica? Do you know about the Net Zero Energy Building Project? If not, why not? 

On March 23 I attended an Energy Policy Workshop organised by this pioneering project of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Institute for Sustainable Development. The workshop was supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), as well as the Caribbean Academy of Sciences and the theme was: Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment in the Caribbean. The completion date for the Building is approaching very fast, but it’s only a part of the research being funded by the GEF.

Here is the Keynote Address by Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology. He is a trained scientist himself  – he has a double major in Biochemistry Chemistry with Honors from UWI, and a Doctorate in Basic Medicine from UWI and Imperial College, University of London. Dr. Wheatley joked that he was sitting at the table with two of his former UWI professors.

In addition to the remarks below, Minister Wheatley emphasised that for the future “The real currency is energy.” Observing that Jamaica is actually already well ahead of its 2030 renewable energy target, he added: “We are too dependent on one source of energy.” He also mentioned that hitherto the National Housing Trust will only fund buildings designed for energy efficiency. No more “buildings like ovens,” the Minister said. Good to hear this – I just hope that we can enforce the regulations!

Minister Wheatley speaks at the Energy Policy Workshop. (My photo)

Good Morning.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at this important energy policy in the built environment workshop.

It is indeed as important to focus on energy efficiency and conservation in the built environment as it is on motor vehicles and street lighting systems, for example.

At the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET), our mandate, among our other two portfolio responsibilities, is to deliver Energy Policies that fuel growth. We therefore support institutions such as the University of the West Indies Institute for Sustainable Development and projects such as Promoting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in Buildings Project.

Your workshop under the theme: Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment in the Caribbean: Energy Policy, is timely at this moment when the Ministry and its Agencies, with the assistance of International Funding donors, are in the sixth year of its Energy Efficiency and Enhancement Programme (EECP).

The EECP’s building retrofits to and training programmes at public sector health, education and administrative facilities have seen a return in savings, so far, of some J$131.5 million.

According to October 2016 figures, the EECP interventions have reduced CO2 emissions by 2,768 tonnes.

To gauge the true cost-effectiveness of a programme such as the EECP, evaluation at different stages of its implementation is the ideal. MSET is currently evaluating the EECP, as we seek to gauge its level of success and whether or not special interventions such as re-training or additional retrofits are necessary.

With architects, engineers, construction industry practitioners and, public sector policy makers, among others in attendance, this workshop is about getting it right before the building becomes a reality. It is about ensuring we build with energy efficiency and conservation as a priority, as we seek to achieve “30 in 30” and “5 in 4,” on our path of sustainable development and prosperity.

I note with interest some of topics and focus areas of your workshop, which include: Jamaica’s Energy Policy in the Built Environment;Retrofitting of existing buildings; What is happening now locally and globally; Project economics for renewable energy in the Caribbean region and building capacity to access clean technology funding; and the Draft policy document for NetZero Energy Building (NZEB) construction and retrofit guidelines in Jamaica.

Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Dr Andrew Wheatley (2nd left), participates in the breaking of ground for construction of the Caribbean’s first Net Zero Energy Building on the UWI Mona campus on May 10, 2016. Others (from left) are: Professor of Caribbean Sustainable Development at UWI, Professor Anthony Clayton; Senior Programme Manager, Energy, Climate and Technology Branch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Kenya, Geordie Colville; and Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at UWI, Professor Tara Dasgupta. (Photo: JIS)

Let me therefore, remind you of government’s actions so far, in addition to the EECP, in ensuring a safe, efficient and sustainable energy future for Jamaica.

 National Energy Policy (NEP) & Implementing Programmes, Projects & Plan: ESEEP, EECP, EMEP and IRP

 As you already know, the National Energy Policy (NEP) (2009-2030), is the framework for the overhaul and re-engineering of Jamaica’s energy infrastructure with a heavy focus on sustainability, efficiency and affordability.

We are actually just now coming out of the second 3-year National Energy Action Plan (NEAP), which breaks down and outlays the plan of action re the NEP implementation, in three-year-time frames.

Included in the implementation process of the NEP, for which we have recorded moderate successes, are the:

  • Modernization of the nation’s power generation infrastructure;
  • Diversification of energy sources, with a strong emphasis on renewables;
  • Creation of a 21st Century energy governance framework with newer and more relevant institutions, which together provide the state infrastructure, capable of delivering sustainability and innovation;
  • Adoption of best practices in energy efficiency and conservation techniques, that will contribute significantly toward reducing the country’s demand for energy over a 5-year period;
  • Successful management of our carbon footprint to preserve Jamaica’s natural environment, and
  • The ushering in of a green energy economy, with an increased supply of and demand for energy efficient appliances, approved by the Jamaican Bureau of Standards

To achieve these objectives, the Ministry has developed programmes and projects such as the Energy Security Efficiency and Enhancement Project (ESEEP), which has been operationalised since May, 2012.

Funded by a World Bank loan of US$15M, the ESEEP’s portfolio responsibilities include supporting delivery of the:

  • 2015 Electricity Act;
  • Natural Gas Policy and Regulations and
  • the Smart Grid Road Map.

The priorities of the Smart Grid Road Map include increased connectivity for net billing; power wheeling; and auxiliary connections.

Smart grid is an electricity network that uses digital and advanced technologies to efficiently monitor and manage the transport of electricity from all generation sources.

Its aim is to minimise costs and negative environmental impacts, whilst maximising system reliability, resilience and stability.

The smart energy roadmap addresses four priority areas:

  1. Smart grid roadmap (mentioned above) – identifies prioritizes and defines initiatives to advance smart grid in Jamaica in support of the NEP;
  2. Smarter buildings – applies advanced energy management approaches for larger buildings;
  3. Water and energy efficiency – reduces water loss in the system, resulting in lower overall energy consumption and
  4. Customer conservation programmes – introduces new tariffs and programmes made possible by smart meters, such as time-of-use pricing, prepayment plans, and load control or other in home services.

IRP & EMEP: Project & Plan on the Energy Horizon

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which will come into effect later this year, is really a documented roadmap seeking to put on paper the country’s most efficient, safe and cost effective energy sources or energy sourcing practices and also the most efficient, safe and cost effective way of distributing same.

This, therefore, includes having on paper the best energy mixes that would support the most efficient use of renewables and fossil fuel as Jamaica carves out its “30 in 30” and “5 in 4” achievement path.

The Energy Management & Efficiency Programme (EMEP) is also scheduled for implementation this year. Its specific objectives and expected results are:

  • reduced electricity consumption within health, education and public agency government facilities, which translates in lower CO2 emissions;
  • reduced travel times and avoided fuel consumption through improved traffic control management, which translates in lower CO2 emissions
Wigton Windfarm in Rose Hill, Manchester, began operations in 2004.

Energy Sector Gains Recorded

Ladies and gentlemen, in 2016 alone, some 80.0MW of renewable energy generation was commissioned into service in Jamaica, comprising 60.0MW of Wind and a 20.0MW solar power plant.

As a result, some 15.5 percent of electricity was generated from renewables in 2016 and these new plants are expected to make even greater contributions in 2017.

In fact, Wigton operations from 2004-2016 have significantly cut Jamaica’s CO2 emissions by 800,000 metric tonnes.

In November 2016, Wigton Windfarm commissioned into service its upgraded Resource Centre which boasts a modern renewable energy training laboratory.

Wigton also instituted a Train the Trainers Programme to ensure local sustainability for the development of renewable technologies, as it positions itself to serve as a premier renewable energy training facility for the region.

As you know, license has been granted to Eight Rivers Energy Company for the Build, Own and Operation of a 37.0MW solar power plant to be commissioned in 2018, which will further decrease the dependence on the volatile fossil fuel. It is expected that this will further cut Jamaica’s oil importation, as we seek to save over US$1.7 billion from energy spend by 2020.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith signing the Paris Agreement on behalf of Jamaica at UN Headquarters in New York. I understand that the documents are now all ready for Jamaica’s ratification of the Agreement. (Photo: Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade)

Awards, Regional & Intl Agreements & Closing

I know your Energy Policy workshop, will yield results that will further cement Jamaica’s position as regional leaders in comprehensive energy assessment and planning.

Perhaps this further adds to Jamaica’s 2016 award by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of Best Government Infrastructure Strategy, and the recently received title of the Renewable Energy Central America and Caribbean Congress (RECAM) Renewables Champion of the Year. They gave me the award just two weeks ago in Panama, at the 2nd annual RECAM Congress, but I really represent Jamaica’s efforts and achievements. When I speak of successes in Energy, it is Jamaica’s success, not mine.

Also important, or tied to our national goal of securing safe and sustainable, efficient and cost-effective energy are our regional and international commitments.

According to the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS), signatory countries have agreed to cut retail electricity prices by 28 per cent by 2022. Jamaica, ladies and gentlemen, is a signatory country of the C-SERMS.

I also do not need to remind this gathering of our signing of the Paris Agreement, in which we, along with the other 188 signatory countries, pledged to cut CO2 emissions to below 2 degrees by 2030.

To achieve all this, it is vital that buildings are designed with energy efficiency always at the top of our minds. Your workshop, ladies and gentlemen, is critical.

Please, have a productive one.


For more information, go to MSET’s website  You can find more information on the Net Zero Energy Building here.

CEO of Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) Kelly Tomblin (left) talks to Professor Tara Dasgupta, Project Principal Investigator; Minister Andrew Wheatley; and Dr. David Smith, Coordinator of the Institute of Sustainable Development at UWI. (My photo)


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