Experts discuss future of energy in Jamaica at Utech Forum

Martin Baxter, Gleaner Writer

With Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Week as the backdrop, the University of Technology (UTech) recently held a forum to discuss the future of energy in Jamaica.

A panel of experts and esteemed guests from Jamaica's energy industry transformed a lecture theatre into a boardroom for discussion, as students, members of the media and those in the business of energy turned out to hear the industry's offerings.

The viability of solar power, wind farms, hydroelectric technology, coal and LNG plants were assessed in presentations given by senior director at the Ministry of Energy and Mining, Fitzroy Vidal; Professor Rosalea Hamilton; vice-president of generation expansion at JPSCo, Valentine Fagan; director of sustainable energy at UTech, Dr Ruth Potopsingh; Ernie Megginson from the Office of the Cabinet's Jamaica LNG Project; and production manager at Petrojam, Telroy Morgan.

Morgan said Petrojam would ensure it could meet Jamaica's energy demands by upgrading its refinery.

"The demand for fuel outstrips what the refinery can do and, therefore, we need to correct that in terms of our way forward in terms of upgrade," he said.

"The market is also asking for cleaner fuel. We're hearing the cry getting louder and louder for ultra-low sulphur diesel, we're taking steps to move into that direction. However, that can only be achieved by the refinery in two ways. One, that we're going to upgrade. And in order to do that, we are going to import and we have started taking the necessary steps to appease our customers and we'll be looking to start some imports late next year if all goes well in terms of the project development. "In terms of continuation of refining in Jamaica, we're saying that this is absolutely essential and it is integral and critical for the energy reliability for the country.

In terms of the existing refinery, should it be upgraded? We're saying 'yes'. It is strategically aligned with the energy policy and we think oil will be around for some time. We think those liquid fuels are going to be in use for some time to come and, therefore, it remains a part of the national strategic plan."

Petrojam also used the opportunity to present UTech's Energy Monitoring and Auditing Team (EMAT) with $100,000 in sponsorship funding so that EMAT can establish representation in the local market and international community to become a pioneer of energy conservation.

This year's CARICOM Energy Week formed part of the initiatives to raise awareness of the critical importance of energy to the Caribbean's development.

A major focus of Energy Week was on increasing awareness of the citizenry of the community so that they could become better stewards in the utilisation of various forms of energy. Energy Week was also aimed at increasing the awareness of the important role for clean and renewable energy in the context of global trends and the realities in CARICOM.