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Government seeking ways to cut energy cost

Government seeking ways to cut energy cost

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By year’s end, this country will have spent an estimated EC$60 million on the importation of diesel for the generation of electricity.{{more}}

This figure represents a 500 per cent increase over previous years and, according to Dr Jerrol Thompson, Director of Special Projects in the Prime Minister’s Office, this represents a “significant and crippling” drain on the economy, each individual’s wallet and this country’s ability to compete.

Thompson, delivering the keynote address at a one day energy seminar hosted by the Energy Unit on Tuesday, November 15, said that it was, however, necessary for the money to be spent, or there would be frequent power cuts, but the issue was at a point where it warranted some attention.

The one day seminar brought together persons from the private and public sector in an effort to increase the knowledge base of energy efficiency of those in attendance.

“We could throw our arms in the air saying that nothing can be done or as what happened in the past, as oil prices dropped we lower our guard or we could take a very serious and deliberate approach to doing something significant to alleviate this serious problem,” Thompson said.

The problem was not unique to St Vincent, he maintained, but to the rest of the region and world and with talk that the use of fossil fuels was going to increase in the future, it was now time to look at the impact the use of natural gas for the generation of electricity.

The government has, however, come up with three approaches to the problem, Thompson said, including a series of renewable energy resources and the exploration of energy efficient measures.

According to the former Minister of Technology, there was a wealth of opportunity in the area of renewable energy sources.

He said that while the capital may not be readily available to develop all the ideas through this country’s energy policy, the government was going to begin unveiling a number of initiatives.

These include the installation of solar panels on government buildings, including the Administrative (Financial) Building which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

This initiative is expected to be replicated to other government buildings, Thompson said, including the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and the prison.

The hydro-electricity plants at Richmond and South Rivers were both expected to be refurbished, which Thompson said was expected to enhance the output of these facilities.

These facilities are important to the local generation of electricity, as they contribute as much as 15 to 20 per cent of the total power supply.

Thompson further explained that within recent times, the fuel surcharge was 48 cents.

“Without hydro, it would have been 61 cents,” he said.

Thompson announced that the government is hoping to begin the construction of a wind farm at Ribishi Point some time towards the end of 2012, which will generate up to 5 megawatts of power.

Regarding efficiency, he said that based on an energy audit conducted on 70 government buildings, 7 were discovered to be major energy consumers.

Work was expected to begin on ensuring that energy saving measures were put in place.

But while the government was working on implementing strategies to conserve energy, Thompson contended that human behaviour was the deciding factor.

“A lot depends on what you the leaders do. If we could cut that 60 million by 30 per cent, that’s $20 million circulating in our society,” Thompson said.

Eaton Haughton, Managing Director of Econergy Engineering Services Limited of Jamaica, during his presentation, said that we were at the peak of oil production and that it will become too valuable a commodity to burn.

“Can we really survive this trend?” Haughton questioned.

The generation of electricity has gone from US 15 cents to 30 cents, and in the case of St Vincent 45 cents per kilo watt hour.

“This is the Caribbean nightmare and it can make us uncompetitive,” Haughton said.

The issue is one of great concern and needed a technical approach, he continued. (DD)

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