Site logo

Renewables need to rise eightfold to hit energy grid target; wind power to take lead

Investments in wind and solar power generation need to grow at least eightfold to hit and surpass the target of 50 per cent renewables, new documents from power utility Jamaica Public Service Company show.

“In order to achieve this target, there will be a heavy reliance on solar and wind renewable sources and long duration battery energy storage systems (BESS), assuming a build-out of 60 MW of solar and 60 MW of wind in any one particular year,” said JPS, which is hunting a consultant to assess the cheapest and most effective method of transmitting power across the grid up to year 2041.

Within that 18-year span, the electricity supplier expects the power mix to undergo substantial adjustment.

The power generation network is then expected to have added 870 MW of wind, 510 MW of solar, 34 MW of hydro and 600 MW of storage, according to the JPS document, which referenced parts of the Jamaican government’s Integrated Resource Plan #2, referred to as IRP2.

The existing renewables capacity include 101 MW of wind, 57 MW of solar at the base level, and 28 MW of hydropower. It is expected that some of the existing units will be replaced over time with new units, but the breakdown wasn’t immediately available. JPS did not respond immediately to requests for comment made on Monday.

Under the IRP2, the Jamaican government is pushing for renewables to account for 50 per cent of the power grid by 2030.

JPS said within that initial timeframe, seven years, equal amounts of new solar power units and wind power are targeted for addition to the national electricity grid, which it operates exclusively under licence from the government, but that beyond 2030, it will shift towards a heavier reliance on wind.

Investors in these new power units will largely be sought through public auction, a function that is generally within the remit of the Office of Utilities Regulation, the state regulator of telecoms and electricity utilities.

“As the country moves to a more sustainable future, it is essential that the stability, security and reliability of the network is maintained as variable renewable sources and battery energy sources become a more dominant feature,” JPS said in the tender documents for the consultant.

The issue with renewables remains the fluctuation in power delivered to the grid when compared with conventional fuel sources such as diesel and natural gas, which together power most of Jamaica’s electricity generation units. Renewables are affected by cloud coverage for solar or slow wind speeds that affect the operations of turbines that generate wind power.

Renewable energy currently accounts for 30 per cent of the power mix. Rebalancing the mix to half of the grid capacity aims to safeguard against world market energy price shocks, improve energy security and protect consumers on the grid.

Higher fuel prices have been affecting much of the world since February 2022 when Russia, a large oil-producing nation, invaded its neighbour Ukraine. For instance, fuel imports in the first two months of this year cost Jamaica nearly $48 billion, up from $40 billion in the similar period a year ago, according to official data agency Statistical Institute of Jamaica.

JPS wants the consultant it is hiring to develop and test a plan for the transmission network up to 2041. It should include a review of the existing computer models of generation and transmission expansion, and an analysis of normal and abnormal conditions.

The full IRP2 plan has not yet been made public by the Ministry of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport.

The portion of the IRP2 referenced by JPS indicates that the energy plan to 2030 involves adding 360 MW of wind, 360 MW of solar, 375 MW of storage, and 34 MW of hydro. Thereafter between 2031 and 2041 the target is an additional 510 MW of wind, 150 MW of solar, 225 MW of storage and no additional hydro.

The document gave no indication of cost of capital to roll out the plan.

Jamaica Public Service owns and operates 22 generating units. Its assets include conventional thermal plants that generate 315 MW, hydro 28 MW; and wind turbines that produce 3.0 MW; as well as 1,200 kilometres of transmission lines supporting over half a million customers. The company is co-owned and controlled by Marubeni Corporation of Japan and Korea East-West Power, with Jamaica as a minority partner.

While JPS has a monopoly on power distribution, the market for power generation remains open to competition. These suppliers, called independent power producers, sell electricity to JPS under power purchase agreements. The IPPs as a bloc produce 537 MW of power from diesel or natural gas, 98 MW of wind, and about 57 MW of solar power.

Within the renewable energy market, the large operators and their capacity include: Wigton Windfarm with a capacity of 67 MW – a former government-owned business that was privatised via the stock market four years ago; BMR Energy at 32 MW, with assets held by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group; the Eight Rivers/Paradise Park solar project at up to 51 MW, and held by Rekamnair, Neoen and MPC Energy; and Content Solar at 20 MW, held by WRB Enterprises.

Read More


  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment