Wednesday 19 September, 2018

5,000 solar lamps to be distributed in seven constituencies

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre), and Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley (third left), examine solar lanterns that were handed over to seven constituencies at the Office of the Prime Minister on April 30. Also examining the lanterns (from left) are Zavia Walker, Kathleen Grant, Jean Dallas, Sandra LaTouche and Samuel Williams, representing the various constituencies.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness (centre), and Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley (third left), examine solar lanterns that were handed over to seven constituencies at the Office of the Prime Minister on April 30. Also examining the lanterns (from left) are Zavia Walker, Kathleen Grant, Jean Dallas, Sandra LaTouche and Samuel Williams, representing the various constituencies.

Some 5,000 solar lamps are being made available to mostly inner-city residents in seven constituencies as part of a pilot aimed at reducing household fires caused by open flames such as candles.

The constituencies to benefit are Eastern St Andrew, East Rural St Andrew, South St Andrew, West Rural St Andrew, East Central St Andrew, East Kingston and Port Royal, and St Andrew West Central.

The pilot follows a promise made by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during his contribution to the Budget debate in March, shortly after three children perished in a fire that destroyed their house in his West Central St Andrew constituency.

He subsequently gave instructions to the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology and one of its agencies, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), for something to be done to reduce the risks of such fires.

 “Effectively, this is what it (the pilot programme) amounts to, the Government giving a subsidy in solar technology for households that are deemed to be energy poor,” Holness said. He was speaking Monday during a ceremony to hand over the lanterns to Members of Parliament, at the Office of the Prime Minister.

At least three bulbs per household will be distributed during the pilot phase of the project.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that this short-term response by his administration is only the beginning and does not constitute the “entirety of the Government’s response” to dealing with the issue of open flames being used in vulnerable households.

He suggested that long-term consideration could be given to the use of energy grants, as is done in some countries.

In Ireland, for instance, under the Better Energy Programme, grants are provided to low-income households vulnerable to energy poverty, to upgrade their energy efficiency.

“The Government could consider that there should be a minimum right to electricity, but what would be the cost of that and could the Government afford it; can the Government put energy as a welfare grant, such as a cash coupon through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH); but we’re not at that stage just yet,” he said.

He informed that a study will be commissioned from the project to examine its usefulness for scale-up as an islandwide project.

Meanwhile, Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, commended the PCJ for acting expeditiously on the initiative.

Dr. Wheatley believes that the distribution of the solar lanterns will provide opportunities for employment as well as to raise the level of awareness of renewable energy efficiency and conservation.

For his part, Member of Parliament for East Kingston and Port Royal and Opposition Spokesman on Energy, Phillip Paulwell, expressed gratitude to the Government for the provision of the solar lanterns.

Costing US$44,000, the 5,040 lanterns have been procured from Nokero International Limited, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, in the United States.

The lantern is equipped with three settings and when charged by sunlight offers a bright beam of light for approximately six hours. The low beam offers more than 20 hours of illumination.

Known as the Nokero N233, it has been described as one of the most efficient off-grid lights. It is bright enough for reading, working or lighting up a small space and can withstand years of daily use in the world’s harshest conditions.

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