Go alternative, or else!August 15, 2013

HILLARY Alexander, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, says numerous Jamaican businesses will continue to fail as a direct result of their owners’ refusal to invest in alternative sources of energy and by so doing, break the country’s high dependence on oil.

According to Alexander, who was guest speaker at Caribbean Policy Research Institute’s (CaPRI)’s recent forum on Renewable Energy in the Caribbean at the Undercroft of the University of the West Indies, Mona, it is only in taking the risk of implementing alternative energy sources that entrepreneurs, who cry daily about the high cost of electricity, will see a reduction.

“That is a serious issue for us at a policy level. Breaking this oil dependency is a core part of our ministry’s objectives. We import, as I am sure you all know, 95 per cent of our energy, mostly petroleum, and that leaves us vulnerable. Renewable energy, on the other hand, saves us on capital cost, the operational cost and the fuel cost,” Alexander said.

Her presentation was titled ‘Renewable Energy: The Jamaican Perspective’.

The permanaent secretary noted that Jamaica’s high dependency and competition rate with countries across the globe for oil is unhealthy for development, as the country continues to pay the increased cost per barrel for fuel based on the economies of scale.

“As a small developing country, we are particulary vulnerable because of the uncertainty; uncertainty created by speculation, effects of geo-politics and the driving demand,” Alexander said.

That alone, she said, should clue Jamaicans in that it is now time to use home-grown ideas of alternative energy sources and the ideas of our youth, with the knowledge of new technological ideas, to invest in alternative energy and depend less on fuel.

“As a country, we are adapters of new technology, but we need to harness our local resources and conduct less importation of imported fuels. We have to look forward as a country. We cannot continue to say, because of the several constraints of our country, we can’t. Let us, as a nation, aim to have at least 20 per cent of renewable energy overall and 30 per cent by 2030,” she implored.

Additionally, Alexander said all members of the public and private sectors need to start conducting private research of the affordable alternative energy sources which are available to them and which can be used to cut their costs.

She said sources such as the website of CaPRI — ‘The Caribbean’s Think Tank’, has data available on numerous research papers per year that can be used for potential projects.

“Energy information is available that is current, accurate and thus facilitates and promotes opportunities for investment,” she said.

“We also need to look to partnership. Much of what we do and what we’ve accomplished has been due to partnership,” she added.

€” Ainsworth Morris