Gov’t wants to privatise Wind-farm

Wigton Windfarm in Manchester is to be priva-tised in the New Year as part of Government plans to increase the use of renewable energy and re-duce the national oil import bill which this year passed the US$1.5 billion (J$100 billion) mark for the first time.

Ruth Potopsingh, group managing director of the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) – the state agency that owns Wigton, told The Gleaner that since it opened in 2004 there has been interest from several potential buyers, both local and international. The sale is to be publicly advertised.

“It’s the policy of PCJ to build and develop projects and then to turn them over to the private sector,” Mrs. Potopsingh said.

Government’s plan to increase the proportion of renewable energy for elec-tricity generation, from five per cent to 15 per cent by 2015, will cost approxi-mately US$200 million (about J$1.4 billion).

According to Dr. Cezley Sampson, energy adviser to the Prime Minister, this necessitates private sector investment.

Parties interested in buying the wind farm will have to continue with PCJ’s plans to double the generating capacity of Wig-ton from 20.7 to 41.4 megawatts, Phillip Paul-well, the government min-ister with responsibility for energy, told The Gleaner.

“Sale to any buyer must be on condition that they are prepared to go ahead with the expansion,” Mr. Paulwell said.

Under a power purchase agreement with the Ja-maica Public Service Com-pany Ltd., Wigton cur-rently supplies the national grid with electricity gener-ated by its 23 wind tur-bines at an average output of seven megawatts.

Wigton is the first com-mercial wind farm in the Caribbean and the second project in the Caribbean to qualify for carbon credits under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol Clean De-velopment Mechanism. Wigton will earn US$3.1 million (J$205 million) over nine years from selling carbon credits to the Dutch government.

However, Mrs. Po-topsingh’s predecessor, Dr. Raymond Wright, has said that when approved, the Wigton expansion would likely be delayed by world overdemand for wind tur-bines which has been partly caused by incentives for renewable energy of-fered by governments in the developed world, espe-cially Europe.

PCJ is currently sourc-ing funds to construct a 1.2 megawatt hydro power plant at Laughlands, Great River, in St. Ann. It has identified three other po-tential sites islandwide: Rams Horn and Constant Spring in St. Andrew, and Rio Cobre in St. Catherine.

In the meantime, ac-cording to Mr. Paulwell, the results of Petrojam’s current trial of E10, which would replace MTBE with ethanol as 10 per cent of the gasolene mixtures in the island, are to be brought to Cabinet in January. He said an is-landwide switch to the fuel made from sugar cane is expected later in 2007.

The Energy Minister said a new trial, using fuel with 15 per cent ethanol, would also begin next year.

“This is good for the en-vironment, it is good in terms of foreign exchange savings that would other-wise be spent on imports and it would also enable the local sugar industry to have a role in the product,” he said.

PCJ will also continue discussions in the New Year with several local en-tities interested in partner-ing with foreign manufac-turers of photovoltaic (solar energy) equipment, to es-tablish a factory in Ja-maica.

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