Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Jamaica's oil bill could exceed US$600 m in 2002/3 - Paulwell
PCJ says energy not being used productively
ARLENE MARTIN, Observer staff reporter
Friday, November 29, 2002



Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell (right) and head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Dr Raymond Wright, discuss the wind farm (pictured at centre) at Munro College in St Elizabeth, at Wednesday's 'Open Day' at the corporation's headquarters in Kingston. (Photo: John Nicholson)

MINISTER of Commerce, Science and Technology Phillip Paulwell has said steady increases in the price of oil on the world market since mid-1999 could see the country's oil bill exceeding US$600 million in the fiscal year 2002/2003.

"This is bad news for Jamaica which already is straight-jacketed with interest payments on long-term loans that exceed 60 per cent of national revenue collections. This has not been helped by the threat of war against Iraq and the impact that this is likely to have on oil prices," Paulwell said at Wednesday's "Open Day" at the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica headquarters on Trafalgar Road in Kingston.

The minister noted that Jamaica's indigenous conventional energy sources were "non-existent" since more than 90 per cent of all the energy consumed locally is imported.

"Yet (our) industries, like in most other countries, are inescapably energy-dependent," he said, noting that the volatility of the world's oil markets over the past 30 years has "not provided leverage to the country to develop its industries with confidence".

According to Paulwell, in 1999 more than a quarter of total domestic consumption of oil was consumed by the transport sector, compared to 2.76 million barrels or 15.11 per cent consumed by that sector in 1992 when it included rail transportation.

Paulwell said the concept of energy conservation had become more important in recent years, largely due to the uneven distribution of "universally known sources of energy" and available technology.

"Energy use is a major component in the production of goods and services by individuals, enterprises or nations, and to gain the respective competitive edge, the cost of securing and utilising energy sources is critical," he said.

He also reiterated government's efforts on energy conservation which include the complete phasing out of leaded gasolene; phased replacement of minibuses with long chassis buses; the use of articulated buses on trunk routes; and the establishment of a bus lane on Half-Way-Tree Road in 1996.

"This has reportedly increased bus mobility on that thoroughfare by 50 per cent," he said.

Paulwell also noted that Jamaica has begun to look at alternative fuels, such as the construction of the wind farm in Manchester which will help to reduce the country's dependence on the costly and less environmentally-friendly petroleum. Construction of that project is expected to begin in January.

At the same time, head of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), Dr Raymond Wright, has said a continuous increase in energy use, even though the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been moving at a slow pace, showed that Jamaicans were not using energy as productively as they should.

"The GDP is virtually the same or rising very slowly at one or two per cent per year and at the same time we notice that energy use is increasing at seven or eight per cent per year. The two are not in tandem and therefore it is not sustainable," Dr Wright told the Observer.

He added: "We are using energy, not for production but for enhancing the quality of life and unfortunately we are not able to afford this luxury as yet because we are not an industrialised country."

The Open Day highlighted "Energy Efficiency and Cogeneration" (that is, combined heat and power generation) as part of its observation of Science and Technology Month.

According to Dr Wright, the main goal of the event was to focus on energy efficiency in homes and industries.

"We feel that energy efficiency can make significant savings. If applied in an individual project, it can save 25 per cent of energy cost," he told the Observer. "It is important for everybody to be aware of energy efficiency measures and implement them."

On display were information of various renewable energy projects undertaken by the PCJ. Among them was information on solar street lamps installed in some sections of the island.

That project was hit with a snag earlier this year when thieves and vandals stole parts and vandalised 22 of the 33 lamps that were installed between Ocho Rios and Dunn's River earlier this year.

Despite that, however, Dr Wright said to date, 111 of the environmentally-friendly lamps have been installed throughout the island with at least one in every parish.

In addition there was information on the corporation's US$24-million Wigton wind farm project, construction on which will begin in January.

According to Wright, Jamaicans could be using the renewable energy as early as December of next year, as the project is slated to be completed by that time.

When completed, the wind farm will supply the Jamaica Public Service Company with 20 megawatts of power. The company will have a 20-year agreement with the utility company.

The project is the largest of its kind in the region.