US$90-m boost

BY ARLENE MARTIN-WILKINS Associate editor — news 

PAULWELL… House still has work to complete agenda 

WASHINGTON, DC, USA — The 34-megawatt (MW) greenfield wind farm being built by US-owned BMR Energy in St Elizabeth is to receive a US$90-million capital injection by way of a loan through a tripartite arrangement among the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the International Finance Corporation (IFC),) and the Government of Canada.

The announcement was made by US Vice-President Joe Biden at yesterday’s Clean Energy Summit at the US State Department in Washington, DC, which he hosted and which brought together government officials from the Caribbean and Latin America as well as finance, private sector and civil society leaders from the US, Caribbean, and the international community. The summit was intended to push for an integrated approach to clean energy solutions for the mostly oil-dependent countries.

The OPIC was established by the US to connect renewable energy projects being undertaken in Caribbean countries with financing entities. It will be providing US$43 million, or 48 per cent of the funds to BMR. Yesterday, Biden said the loan to Jamaica is the first disbursement by the body.

“When construction begins in June, it will be a tangible example of what can be achieved when the public and private sectors in both countries come together and meet this challenge head-on,” Biden declared while delivering the keynote address at the summit.

In an immediate reaction, Jamaica’s Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said, “I think it is very significant because it will assist with the contribution of renewables to the grid.”

The wind farm, according to BMR, is expected to shave US$500 million, or a quarter, off Jamaica’s $2-billion-a-year oil import bill.

Paulwell — who along with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller attended the summit — said that the BMR project, together with a soon-to-be-announced 20-MW project slated to be undertaken by another American company at a cost of US$60 million, will go a far way in the diversification of Jamaica’s energy supplies as the country pushes to achieve 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewables by the year 2030. Currently, renewables account for eight per cent of the island’s energy supplies.

“The message is that the Americans are facilitating their energy sector interests in the region and that, once we have transparent and clear regulatory systems, they will be encouraged to come, and I think Jamaica has demonstrated that,” said Paulwell.

Yesterday, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also disclosed that it will be spending US$10 million over the next five years to help Jamaica clear some of the financial, technical, planning, and co-ordination hurdles on its way to achieving the 2030 renewable energy target.

“Our programme is designed to help the Government [of Jamaica] meet those challenges. For example, in energy efficiency, Jamaica has a wealth of alternative energy sources particularly from the sun. So, we will be helping Jamaica to develop a market for technology that is solar-powered and through that we will be able to reduce the cost of energy for Jamaicans by putting more of that energy onto the grid,” explained Elizabeth Hogan, USAID’s acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean Bureau.

She said the funds will be allocated based on the areas of priority, as agreed with the Jamaican Government.

“The regulatory reform is certainly a big piece of that as it will take international expertise in addition to local expertise. It will go towards experimentation of some of these alternative energy opportunities that Jamaica has and it will go to the planning and policy regimes; helping the regulatory agencies, for example, [reform] the current regulations in order to allow for more investment in alternative energy,” she said.

Yesterday’s summit was a follow-up to the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative held last June in Trinidad and Tobago. It highlighted ongoing efforts under the initiative to push for greater co-ordination to achieve energy security for the region.

During the summit, the World Bank presented a proposal to create a Caribbean Energy Investment Network, which is intended to improve communication among development partners and help Caribbean countries match external support with local energy goals.


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