KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – Jamaica says it will partner with Cuba for the transfer of knowledge and technology to facilitate the local manufacture and assembly of cost effective photovoltaic (solar) light panels.
Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister, Phillip Paulwell, said that the Rural Electrification Program (REP) Limited will guide the process as the government seeks to reduce the country’s huge energy bill.
He said the initiative is in keeping with the agency’s new mandate, which is focused on developing renewable energy solutions for those households further than three kilometres from the national grid, and promoting energy efficiency and conservation.
In May, Paulwell had told Parliament that the REP will be renamed Jamaica Ener¬gy Solutions Limited (JESL), and given a new role.
He said then that the renewable energy solutions to be developed by the agency, would target the remaining four percent of rural households yet to receive electricity, in order to bring electrification island-wide to 100 percent.
He said that the REP, since its inception in 1975, has successfully wired over 80,000 homes in rural communities, bringing the electrification rate in rural households to 96 percent, which he contended, is “better than most countries in the world.”
He said the government is committed to electrifying the remaining four percent of households, even while problems related to terrain in those areas, as well as distance from the national grid infrastructure, of more than three kilometres in most cases, makes bringing the grid to them unfeasible.
Paulwell said it is for this reason that the focus of the REP has to be shifted to focus on renewable technologies.
He said that REP Chairman, Rev. Dr. Garnett Roper, will guide this transition, which will also include providing project management services for the design and implementation of energy solutions for major housing initiatives by agencies of the state, espe¬cially where low-income earners are the targeted beneficiaries.
“The new entity will be mandated, as we have done with Wigton (Wind Farms Limited). Wigton is a successful government venture making money for the Jamaican people. It is also producing electricity at the cheapest rate, cheaper than oil. And so, we need more wind farms. We need to incorporate more solar energy…that is the new mission of the REP,” Paulwell stated.
Over 50 residents of New Forest/Plumwood have been provided with electricity by REP at a cost of just over three million (One Jamaica dollar = US$0.01 cents).