Rising electricity bills have prompted many Jamaican businesses and homeowners to take a much closer look at renewable energy technologies – especially solar. In mid February, Kingston’s American Chamber of Commerce hosted a private sector forum on energy to discuss ways in which area residents and business owners could reduce their dependence on expensive utility electricity.
Currently, the Jamaican Public Service Company (JPS) charges as much as 40 cents per kilowatt-hour. But the initial cost of installing solar panels has remained prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of Jamaicans. Not only must one purchase the panels themselves, but there are also labor charges, financing arrangements, and other hurdles complicating mass adoption in Jamaica.
Fortunately, this trend is changing.
Solar Installations Becoming More Affordable in Jamaica
Low interest financing is becoming increasingly accessible – especially for resource-hungry businesses like hotels, hospitals, and commercial properties. According to Valerie Crawford, Manager of Trade Financing at the EXIM Bank, a new partnership between her bank and the Development Bank of Jamaica will make low interest loans available to homeowners and businesses hoping to install solar technology.
In addition to easier access to credit, many believe that grid electricity prices will continue to soar, making the gap between JPS electricity and solar energy even harder to ignore. This past summer brought record high electricity prices to Jamaica, highlighting how dangerously dependent the country had become on foreign sources of energy.
International Talent and Domestic Cultivation: Jamaica’s New Solar Deal
The shift in Jamaica’s solar landscape has started to attract attention from overseas – most notably from nearby Florida, one of the most active solar hotspots in the Americas. Aware of the relative lack of installers, panels, and systems, organizations like US Solar Institute have begun partnering with local stakeholders to ensure Jamaica’s solar push continues.
USSI is in discussions with several Jamaican solar energy firms to ensure a steady supply of local talent, affordable parts, and quality craftsmanship. One of these local companies, Green Energy Services Ltd., was actually launched by Dean Nevers, a Jamaican citizen who completed his solar installation training in Florida with US Solar Institute.
When finalized, the partnership will include a satellite campus in Kingston to train new solar installers on-site, more affordable solar components (including pre-engineered solar systems), and greater public advocacy to raise awareness of incentives, rebates, and financing.
According to USSI’s Director of Operations, Kelly Arduz, “Thanks to rising electricity bills, apathy and ignorance are no longer barriers to solar growth – people are aware of their options and eager to change.” She continues, “Through our partnerships throughout the Caribbean, we hope to facilitate this change and create a local and sustainable solar economy.”