The Jamaica government says energy diversification, with increased use of renewable solutions, is a strategic priority in order to achieve sustainable economic growth.
“Our energy-sector plan focuses on the creation of a sector that provides affordable and accessible energy supplies with long-term energy security, contributes to international competitiveness through the productive sectors of the economy and improves the quality of life for citizens,” Finance and the Public Service Minister Audley Shaw told delegates attending the Natural Gas Conference, which ended last Friday.
Jamaica’s National Energy Policy of 2009-2030 addresses the island needs for a secured, diversified and sufficient supply of energy, which will in turn support long-term economic and social development as well as environmental sustainability.
Shaw told delegates that the plans are “strategic, dynamic and adaptable to the ever-shifting scope of global energy demands”.
The three-day conference was held under the theme ‘New Horizons: The Development of a Natural Gas Sector in Jamaica – Prospects and Challenges’, and was jointly hosted by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) and the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.
It sought to foster greater understanding of the implications of the introduction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the Jamaican marketplace, with particular emphasis on the anticipated economic impact, commercial opportunities, governance and regulation.
Earlier, Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, urged local service providers to take advantage of opportunities that will emerge from Jamaica being positioned as the regional hub for natural gas.
He told the conference that the Andrew Holness government wants Jamaica to become the regional hub for natural gas and efforts are underway to bring it to fruition.
Wheatley said as a non-oil-producing country and a developing economy, successive Jamaican governments have long recognised the necessity of a reliable and sustainable energy supply.
“Historically, our energy profile has been characterised by an overdependence on imported fossil fuel. On average, we need 20.4 million barrels of oil, annually, which can cost the country as much as J$2 billion (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) depending on market prices. In fact, Jamaica’s national oil bill accounts for our largest outflow of foreign exchange, and it continually exceeds our total annual export earnings”
He said that while the oil market has been relatively stable over the last 18 months, “we know that the volatility of oil prices can drive up demand for foreign exchange and trigger inflation, which can result in the devaluation of Jamaican currency and the erosion of our purchasing power.