On Saturday March 30 over 90% of the 600,000 customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company endured several hours without electrical energy, while Mr. Renewable enjoyed every bit of power from his solar panels and wind turbine in the overcast Saturday afternoon. The day was expected to be bustling with activities as yesterday, Good Friday, was a national holiday. Shoppers nationwide would be using today to prepare for the extended weekend with bun and cheese and all other essentials.
The effects of the blackout took its toll after diesel powered back-up generators started running out of gas and the duration of the blackout proved to be a bit longer than the ever so frequent JPS power outages. The average diesel generator stores about 5 hours worth of gas for days like these and the 15% of the population, fortunate enough to have such a backup in place didn’t foresee an 8 hour outage as it was in some areas. Mr. Renewable had a nice mixture of wind and solar energy at his home and for areas where wind is not as viable he has 12 deep cycle batteries capable of powering his home for up to 25 hours. His system did not cost him an arm and a leg as it would 5 years ago. For his small 2 bed room home, he recalls paying up to $12,000 to JPSCo, he now channels that to a loan he used to purchase his renewable energy system and will be able to pay off his loan in less than 3 years, then enjoy another 11 year of almost free energy, NO light bill, NO all island blackout .
This article is not asking JPS to improve their service nor lower energy bills. Considering the fact that this is a company that enjoyed JM$0.75billion in profit in 2011 [Gleaner] YES you read right, that’s $750,000,000 in net profit. This is the same JPS that is considered one of the most inefficient producer in the the region [Gleaner] and a great percentage of their customers enjoy free electricity while the faithful few that pay monthly, are charged enough so they might be able to enjoy 3 quarter of a billion Jamaican dollar in profits. Those figures slightly resemble the numbers the island is currently preparing to borrow from the IMF. What if Jamaica owned JPS, better yet, what if we did not import US$2.4billion worth of oil but used the Wind energy from the sea, the solar energy from the sun and the waste energy from the Riverton Dump?
I noted above that I was not asking JPS to improve their service. I am asking more Jamaicans to become Mr. and Ms. Renewable, take the step to going green. Thousands of Jamaicans access loans to purchase cars or borrow a small change to purchase something that takes them from point A to point B. Why not use that same ‘small change’ to start small. First try to conserve and then take the refrigerator Off the Grid and then the main lighting. This is guaranteed to reduce your energy cost by at least 50%. The microwave, fan, laptop and other lights can come later as you continue until your entire home is Off the Grid. More importantly, policy makers need to intensify the renewable energy bid to 50% Renewable in Jamaica by 2020. Renewable is the most reliable way forward, this will reduce the cost of energy by over 60% from the over US₵40 per kilowatt it is today to under US₵15 per kilowatt . This is the only way JPS will do anything about their inefficiency and what is the likeliness that the wind will stop blowing offshore, the sun will stop shining onshore and that garbage is cease to pour into Riverton for waste to energy conversion.If this worse case should come to pass, then we can use JPS for our backup but not our primary source. Until then Jamaica needs to seriously intensify the renewable energy quest if we will ever stabilize our economy and rebuild our manufacturing industry.