The push to get 30 per cent of Jamaica’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 is not a pipe dream and will be achieved, Government Senator Matthew Samuda has insisted.
The senator said that energy generated currently from renewable sources is 10.5 per cent of net electricity generation.
Speaking last week in the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, Samuda noted that energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, upon taking over the portfolio last year, increased the 2030 target in the national energy policy to 30 per cent from 20 per cent.
According to Samuda, the target “certainly complements the top line objective of 5 in 4″, referring to the Government’s objective of achieving a GDP growth of five per cent by the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
“This (energy target) is not a pipe dream, nor is this lip service being paid to the nation’s energy supply. I am happy to state here today in this chamber that Jamaica will target a further 100 megawatt (MW) of renewable energy for the grid, with a new invitation for proposals to be made public in the very, very near future.”
Added Samuda: “This project will have a transformative effect on the sector, and indeed, the country. These projects will, no doubt, strengthen a pillar for competitiveness and development, which is cheap, reliable, and clean energy.”
Last year, an additional 80MW of generating capacity from renewable sources was connected to the national grid, Samuda noted.
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) is preparing for a battle with the Government over any attempt to review its operating licence.
The JPS was put on its guard last Friday when Government senator and chief technical adviser to the finance minister, Aubyn Hill, declared that the Andrew Holness-led administration is obliged to review the licence of the light and power company because of threats to the Jamaican economy.
Opening the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate, Hill called for a review of the modified licence issued to JPS last January, because it “seems to be quite opposed to the interest of Jamaicans”.
“We have to look at that licence carefully [and] as a new Government, we’re obliged to,” Hill told his parliamentary colleagues.
But Kelly Tomblin, the president and chief executive officer of the JPS, in a quick response, rejected Hill’s reasons for questioning the changes to the licence and expressed the hope that his comments would not suggest that Holness will shred the contract.
“I’m sure, similar to how the Government has continued on the framework for fuel diversity, that this Government certainly wouldn’t suggest that a licence negotiated in good faith, in which the JPS has made investments, would be negated by a subsequent government,” said Tomblin.
“Surely, he’s (Hill) not suggesting that,” added Tomblin.
In his Senate presentation, Hill argued that he was making the call from his position as a senator.
“Because I may have some influence on policy, I do not lose my right as a senator to bring up independent issues. My position is quite different from a recommendation, and if I gave a recommendation I probably would not be speaking on it publicly,” said Hill.
The international banker argued that the replacement of the price cap regime with the revenue cap in the licence “could dampen economic growth” because JPS’s growth is no longer tied to that of the economy.
“A good argument can be made that the revenue cap approach blunts any incentive on JPS’s part to support the expansion of renewable sources of energy or to improve efficiencies in their current business,” said Hill, who is the chairman of Innovative Renewable Energy & Electronics Limited.
He said giving the JPS the right of first refusal to replace generating plants due for retirement entrenches the company’s near-monopoly and is inconsistent with international standards and Jamaica’s national energy policy.
Tomblin rejected those claims, arguing that Hill was making “inaccurate conclusions”.
“We negotiated with the Government for our licence amendments that we believe serve the country. We have about 31 guaranteed standards that are monitored by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR).
“Our overriding goal is to support economic growth. This (Hill’s arguments) requires a more fulsome discussion with the utility,” said Tomblin.
Hill’s call came days after the OUR announced new regulation which should give it more power to monitor the operations of the JPS and other entities which generate or supply electricity.
The regulation will govern the operational standards and established procedures for handling the generation, transmission, distribution, supply and dispatch of electricity across the island.
According to the OUR, the regulation adopts five grid codes, which are generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and dispatch.
“The codes, which were finalised in August 2016, have been developed in parallel, and are designed to be used in conjunction with each other,” said the OUR.
As of January 1, 2017 the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology took over responsibility for applications for net billing, electric power wheeling and auxiliary connections.
Information about the new arrangements, posted on the ministry website, comes after a period of uncertainty characterised by legislative changes, delays and temporary arrangements.
Minister of Science, Energy and Technology
Dr Andrew Wheatley announced in April 2016 that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) would resume accepting applications on behalf of the ministry for net billing. This would be under similar terms as the previously concluded net billing pilot project, which ran for two years until May 2015. Up to that time, the ministry had received 351 applications for net billing, of which 311 were approved.
Net billing allows persons who produce electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar to sell the excess to the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), thus offsetting the electricity consumed when they use power from the grid. The OUR was charged with the responsibility for continuing to accept applications until the details of a permanent programme were finalised.
Public education specialist at the OUR, Elizabeth Bennett Marsh, says that with changes to some aspects of the legislation, the responsibility for approving net billing was passed back to the ministry.
“There was a brief hiatus where we had stopped accepting because we said we really wanted to get everything clarified. The ministry subsequently asked the OUR to continue accepting applications. So we agreed to continue until they could sort it out, and now that it has been completed we handed over,” Bennett Marsh said.
According to the information on the ministry”s website, “All persons who are desirous of connecting to the Jamaica Public Service grid are required to obtain a licence from the minister with responsibility for energy. The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, therefore, advises the public that, effective January 1, 2017, all applications for net billing, electric power wheeling and auxiliary connections are to be made directly to the ministry.”
The ministry declined to comment by telephone on the new requirement and did not respond to emailed questions up to press time.
JPS Director of Corporate Communications Winsome Callum said the light and power company was aware of the changes and stood ready to do its part in adding new systems to the grid.
“This new development came out of the review of the net billing process in 2015. It was decided that the ministry would start accepting applications as of January 2017.
“JPS will continue its role in facilitating the contracts and the commissioning of the systems. We will continue our efforts to ensure that the connections are made as seamlessly and as quickly as possible,” Callum said in a written response.
Rooftop solar energy is becoming a financially viable way for millions of U.S. consumers to generate their own electricity — and utilities are doing everything to kill the solar boom before it gains too much traction. Utilities in states such as Florida, Wisconsin, and Nevada have tried to undermine rooftop solar at the regulatory level and in ballot measures. As a reaction, voters have fought back and beaten the efforts to squash solar energy.
The impact on residential solar companies Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), Vivint Solar(NYSE: VSLR), Sunrun (NASDAQ: RUN), and SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) shouldn’t go unnoticed. They’re winning the policy war against utilities, and as they do, it’ll open a larger and larger market across the country.
The election earlier this month was accompanied by a number of ballot initiatives that will impact solar energy for years to come. And for the most part, solar energy was a huge winner.
Despite utilities’ spending $26 million to pass a referendum that would have undermined solar economics in the state, Florida voters rejected the utility referendum. The state now looks like it’ll have a bright solar future.
In Nevada, less than a year after the public utility commission essentially killed the rooftop solar industry, residents overwhelmingly voted to break up Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B)-owned NV Energy’s long monopoly in the state. Customers have to be given energy choice, meaning more solar in one of the country’s sunniest states.
In the past, Wisconsin has tried to add fees to utility bills that would kill solar energy before it ever got started, but those attempts were rejected by the court.
There’s an important trend here for utilities and solar companies: When solar energy goes on the ballot or to the court, it wins. That should have every utility in the country frightened because that gives millions of customers choice regarding their energy needs.
Policy wins are important because they lay the groundwork for future innovations to take hold in energy. Today, that means rooftop solar on more than 1 million homes in the U.S. — and that number is growing quickly.
The next step will be adding energy storage to homes, something that Tesla is leading on and that Vivint, Sunrun, and SunPower are all adding, as well. As energy storage is added, customers can use more of their own energy, making net metering less important and providing more flexibility for customers.
The holy grail for renewable energy is allowing customers to cut the cord to the utility altogether. We may be a decade from that being a reality, but the more utilities add fixed fees or demand charges, the more quickly the economics of cord-cutting will become compelling. Long-duration energy-storage technologies are already beginning to be deployed, and before long, a couple of Powerwalls and a long-duration energy-storage system may be a viable option for consumers, making utilities irrelevant.
Utilities are in a tough position, having incentives to apply policies that protect short-term profits but which may undermine long-term competitiveness. It’s clear that when push comes to shove, voters are willing to overturn utility policies, voting for solar energy across the country. That has to be a concern for utilities, and it shows that the future is getting brighter for solar energy companies providing the solutions customers want.
Electric avenues that can transmit the sun’s energy onto power grids may be coming to a city near you.
A subsidiary of Bouygues SA has designed rugged solar panels, capable of withstand the weight of an 18-wheeler truck, that they’re now building into road surfaces. After nearly five years of research and laboratory tests, they’re constructing 100 outdoor test sites and plan to commercialize the technology in early 2018.
The electricity generated by this stretch of solar road will feed directly into the grid. Another test site is being used to charge electric vehicles. A third will power a small hydrogen production plant. Wattway has also installed its panels to light electronic billboards and is working on links to street lights.
The next two sites will be in Calgary in Canada and in the U.S. state of Georgia. Wattway also plans to build them in Africa, Japan and throughout the European Union.
“We need to test for all kinds of different traffic and climate conditions,” Harelle said. “I want to find the limits of it. We think that maybe it will not be able to withstand a snow plow.”
The potential fragility joins cost as a potential hurdle.
“We’re seeing solar get integrated in a number of things, from windows in buildings to rooftops of cars, made possible by the falling cost of panels,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Pietro Radoia said. “On roads, I don’t think that it will really take off unless there’s a shortage of land sometime in the future.”’
FOUNDER of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies (The UWI), Professor Anthony Chen, says the unawareness among politicians about the impact of climate change on small island states such as Jamaica is contributing to a lack of sustainability of mitigation efforts.
“We are not going to solve the problem until we get the political directorate involved (and) committed, and that requires awareness. Most of us are not really aware of the full implications of climate change… I think we need to make the politicians much more aware,” Chen said, pointing to the two per cent growth in the economy over the last quarter.
He was among a team of climate change experts from the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation who were guests at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.
He noted that it was the agricultural sector which accounted for this jump, and that this was directly attributable to a significant increase in rainfall following two years of drought. Professor Chen said politicians must take note of developments such as these so that the country can prepare itself for what will certainly come next — another period of harsh drought.
“If politicians understood full understanding of climate change they would know that the next drought may very well be much worse (than the last) and it will continue to get worse,” he said.
“We have to convince the politicians,” Professor Chen insisted, noting his disappointment that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change team that will visit Jamaica from November 28 to December 1 will not have the opportunity to meet with parliamentarians because of local government election activities.
Professor Chen also argued that Jamaicans, politicians included, are not paying nearly enough attention to the country’s level of greenhouse emissions and the increasing negative consequences.
“In Jamaica we don’t realise this. We concentrate a lot on adaptation, so people believe that taking care of the environment will solve climate change, and it will not. We have to get major developed countries to cut back on greenhouse gases,” he said.
In fact, Professor Chen argued that there needs to be much greater pressure and advocacy at international meetings for developed countries with the highest emissions, such as China and the United States to help fix the damage they cause, such as assisting small island developing states with storage for renewable energy.
Meanwhile, chief technical director at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, emphasised that climate change policy does feed into the Government’s wider economic development. He explained that Cabinet is usually briefed, through the portfolio minister, on any important findings that is expected to have an impact on the economic planning process.
“When plans or projects are put forward, if they are going to have an impact on the environment, or if they have a large footprint, NEPA would usually require that an Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted to see the feasibility of the project to determine the impact on the environment and what mitigating factors or actions would have to be put in place,” he outlined. Khan also noted the recent appointment of a Climate Change Advisory Board to advise the minister and the division on critical climate change matters.
Professor Chen suggested that an economic unit should be incorporated into the Climate Change Department, to determine the economic cost of climate change in various areas.
Project administrator and senior climate change negotiator, Clifford Mahlung, noted that the Climate Change Division is seeking to streamline and synergise the climate change activities that are already being carried out across all ministries, agencies and departments, to develop sector strategies.
On Nov. 4, Walmart announced an aggressive plan to increase its investments in renewable energy, pledging to power half its operations from wind, solar, and other renewables by 2025 and to cut the carbon footprint of its operations by 18 percent over the same period. Ten days later, Microsoft made its largest wind-power purchase agreement ever, with a deal to buy 237 megawatts of electricity from turbines in Kansas and Wyoming to run data centers in Cheyenne.
In between those announcements, Donald Trump was elected president, in part by calling climate change a hoax and vowing to gut most of Obama’s clean-energy policies and revive coal mining. If the actions of Walmart and Microsoft are any indication, a Trump administration will do little to dissuade companies from continuing to invest in renewables. “I think fears of a negative impact of Trump on renewable energy are really overblown,” says Thomas Emmons, a partner at Pegasus Capital Advisors, a private asset management firm focused on sustainable and alternative investments.
One reason is timing. The biggest economic incentives for clean energy are federal tax credits for solar and wind projects. Both were set to expire at the end of last year, prompting a surge in investments as companies raced to get in under the deadline. In December, Congress unexpectedly extended both credits (for solar until 2021 and for wind until 2019) as part of a deal to lift the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports. It’s not clear that Trump will try to persuade Congress to repeal the extensions. Wind power is especially popular across the Midwest, a Republican stronghold; in many cases it’s become cheaper than other sources of grid power.
Sixty percent of Fortune 100 companies have renewable-electricity or climate change policies, and 81 companies globally have committed to get 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Companies tend to invest in renewable energy in one of three ways: sourcing clean power from wind and solar projects through long-term agreements; purchasing a stake in green power projects; or using renewable-energy credits to offset the dirtier power they consume.
Since 2008, U.S. companies have signed agreements to purchase more than $10 billion worth of wind and solar power— about 10Gw, enough to run almost 2 million U.S. households for a year. BNEF expects that pace to increase over the next decade, with at least 50 U.S. companies signing long-term agreements to buy an additional 22Gw of clean energy. “A Trump presidency does not lower our expectations for the growth of the corporate renewable-energy market,” says Nathan Serota, a clean-energy analyst at BNEF. “If anything, a less ambitious stance on renewables at the federal level could encourage corporations to pick up the slack even further.” With the government providing less support, more businesses may decide the best way to ensure clean-power projects get built is to sign long-term purchase agreements. That way, renewable developers have a guaranteed customer, ensuring they can finance new projects.
These agreements are emerging as the preferred way to invest in clean energy. Locking in electricity prices for up to 15 years, the deals let companies hedge exposure to volatile natural gas and coal prices, which have historically determined wholesale power prices in the U.S. As wind and solar get cheaper, companies are able to lock in renewable power for less than the average wholesale power price, says Swami Venkataraman, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service.
“Companies are investing in sustainability, not because they’re making a political statement, but because they have a fiduciary duty to protect shareholders and make money,” says Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocate. Even if Trump rolls back Obama’s commitment to the Paris climate accord and his signature clean-energy initiative, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which directs states to lower carbon emissions from power plants, it’s unlikely to influence investment decisions. “Renewable developers weren’t building a business model premised on the CPP,” Serota says.
On Nov. 16, 300 U.S. businesses, including General Mills, EBay, and Intel, called on Trump to support the Paris accord. “The sustainable investing trend has global momentum and big players such as Goldman Sachs and Bill Gates,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director for energy and sustainability at the University of California at Davis, in an e-mail. “Corporate America has lots of millennial customers, and they want to buy from companies with sustainable supply chains and a commitment to renewable energy. I don’t see that changing.”
What will Donald Trump actually do?
It’s a question many Americans are asking themselves now that the U.S. has wrapped up one of its least policy-specific elections ever. The president-elect has offered only the loosest of legislative prescriptions, including whatever plans he may have for the energy industry.
The mystery hangs over turbine manufacturers like Vestas Wind Systems, which fell 12 percent since the election, and coal companies such as Peabody Energy Corp., which soared 73 percent. In his only major energy speech, Trump, 70, said he would rescind “job-destroying” environmental regulations within 100 days of taking office and revive U.S. coal. It’s terrible news for efforts to slow the pace of climate change, but the impact on the renewable energy revolution may be limited. Here’s what it could mean for America’s clean-energy darling, Tesla Motors Inc.:
Tesla is, first and foremost, an electric car company. But on Nov. 17 shareholders will vote on final approval of CEO Elon Musk’s $2.2 billion deal to buy SolarCity Corp. The acquisition would make Tesla the biggest U.S. rooftop solar installer and the first major manufacturer to integrate solar panels with battery backup to extend power into the night.
The swift spread of rooftop solar in the U.S. has been made possible by two government policies. First, most utilities are required to credit homeowners for the excess power they send back to the grid. Those requirements are state-level and shouldn’t be affected by Trump. Second is the 30 percent federal tax credit to offset the cost of installations. The credits were first signed into law under Republican President George W. Bush in 2005 and extended by a Republican Congress late last year. Given their broad support, the subsidies are unlikely to be repealed.
Solar panel prices have dropped, on average, more than 15 percent a year since 2013. On a utility scale, solar power is already cheaper than coal-fired grid electricity across most of the U.S., after subsidies. Even if the incentives were suddenly removed next year—an improbable and economically destructive scenario—the industry would eventually recover as prices continue to fall.
Incentives are designed to make superior new technologies initially affordable, but once those technologies take off, economies of scale take over.
A loss of the federal tax credit could slow the rollout of Tesla’s unusual new rooftop solar shingles. Traditional rooftop panels, however, are almost ready to stand on their own. The payback period currently ranges from about 5 to 10 years, after subsidies and state rebates. If Tesla can achieve the cost savings it hopes for with the merger, it won’t be long before that’s the payback timeline without subsidies.
One of President Barack Obama’s most significant climate achievements was to push through ambitious fuel-economy regulations for U.S. vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled next year to re-asses rules intended to double the average efficiency of cars and trucks to almost 55 miles per gallon by 2025. Those goals could be delayed or dismantled under Trump, accelerating America’s shift to trucks and SUVs. Stocks of Detroit carmakers have predictably surged, while Tesla shares fell 4.9 percent in the two days after the election.
This is obviously bad news for human health and the environment, but it’s impact on Tesla won’t be catastrophic. The price of batteries is dropping rapidly, and by the early 2020s electric cars should be cheaper and better performing than their gasoline-powered equivalents across the board. Lowering efficiency standards will make gasoline cars a bit cheaper to manufacture, but it will also make them more costly to drive over the life of the vehicle.
The U.S. push for electric cars was set in motion by a $7,500 federal tax break. The Trump administration could eliminate the subsidy, but the impact would be short-lived for electric pioneers including Nissan Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Tesla. That’s because the electric-vehicle subsidies were already designed to phase out after each automaker reaches its 200,000th domestic EV sale. Tesla may be first to cross that finish line, probably in the first half of 2018.
The incentives were intended to overcome steep startup costs and slow initial demand for new electric vehicles. Removing the tax break now would effectively pull the ladder up behind Tesla and make it more expensive for other automakers to transition to battery power, a result that wouldn’t be in anyone’s best interest.
Some of the biggest incentives in renewable energy are offered by states, not the federal government. Each state has authority over its own solar and wind rebates, credits for power sold back to the grid, renewable-mix requirements for utilities, and electric-car subsidies. These policies cross ideological borders into deeply Republican states. For example, Louisiana residents can get an additional tax credit of almost $10,000 for buying a long-range electric car. In Colorado, it’s an extra $5,000.