Speech by the Prime Minister

Groundbreaking Ceremony for JPSCO Old Harbour Bay Power Station

The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
At the
Groundbreaking Ceremony for JPSCO Old Harbour Bay Power Station
April 7, 2017 

I am extremely pleased to be here for this long anticipated groundbreaking Old Harbour Bay Power Plant.

Last night I received a frantic telephone message. Prime Minister, I hear you’re not going to be here today,” I said, “I wasn’t planning on coming but I had another engagement to deal with; another very important matter of state and I expected that that engagement would last for about three or four hours which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to make it for your 4 o’clock start and by the time I was finished with that engagement you probably would have been finished with the groundbreaking.”

Of course there were several email exchanges back and forth, back and forth, and then Minister Wheatley came to see me and he said I think you really should come. This is such an important milestone for Jamaica and so I know you’ve all forgiven me for being here approximately two hours after your planned start. Having reflected on it, I thought it was important to be here because this marks the beginning of so many important things but just this groundbreaking is also an accomplishment of the highest of order for Jamaican development.

One of the things that I’m so very impressed with is that this project is being funded primarily out of Jamaica. I can’t tell the last time that a major infrastructure project such as this was completely locally funded. For our capital markets, our banks, our investor community to come out like this and give the financial backing to this project speaks volume.

It’s not just that the project is good in itself and will generate the economic returns to justify the investment but it says that there is a general confidence in the economy that investors are now willing to take risks. That is the start of the economic engine when investors are willing to back a project and of course this is not a small project by any means – three hundred billion US dollars of investment is not a small project – and I’m very happy to see that we were able to fund this project right here using Jamaican resources, Jamaican banks, Jamaican investors. That is indeed a milestone achievement for the Jamaican economy.

It has been long in coming and this success cannot be claimed wholly and solely by one administration. I think this is one of those things that we can say has been worked on by both administrations and I want to pause to acknowledge the work of ESET and in particular Dr. Vin Lawrence.

I’m very happy to see that the dream of diversifying our energy mix here in Jamaica is coming into reality and we want to welcome- well I can’t say we should be welcoming New Fortress, by now they’re part of the Jamaican landscape and I’m hoping that this will be the start of many more projects by New Fortress and indeed Jamaica will become the hub for LNG supply not just for Jamaica but for the entire Caribbean region.

In the recently issued Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017 from the World Economic Forum, Jamaica featured prominently improving by moving from a rank of 116 to a rank of 92. This report examined the progress of global energy transition, that of moving towards more sustainable, affordable and secure energy systems by benchmarking the energy systems of a hundred and twenty-seven hundred.

The report went on to note that the global energy system is often perceived as slow to change however it noted that since benchmarked data in 2009, a number of countries have made significant improvements in this time frame and have climbed the ranks challenging the view of collective inertia. Jamaica was cited as one the countries that has made strides in its energy sector performance since 2009 and indeed we have made significant strides.

I want to re-emphasize what Minister Wheatley has said which is “We want to see more investments in the energy sector, greater utilization of LNG fuel source but we would also like to see an expansion in renewables” and whilst you are speaking Minister, Kelly (Tomblin) whispered to me and she said “Yes we want to see that too but we have to conquer the problem of storage.”

I believe the technology is evolving. It is becoming more affordable and more efficient. I know JPS as a technology company as well as an energy company, that very soon you would be seeking to integrate technologies in your operations that would facilitate the greater use of renewables. The government is now doing the analysis of our energy demands that is your technical name for it is your energy resource plan and I’m hoping that when that is complete, we will have a better road map of actually how much renewable energy we can incorporate into our energy mix.

I think it is important for the government to signal that we want our energy sector to be supportive of our environment. Jamaica as an island we have a fragile environment and our economy depends on our environment particularly as it relates to tourism and agriculture. Therefore the energy choices that we make must support our environment, but for our economy to grow we have to be not just energy sufficient but energy efficient and I think that we are making the right steps. We’re going in the right direction to get more LNG and more renewables to support our economic growth.

In closing, I want to say to the investing communities Jamaica is poised for growth. The government is ensuring that we make the right decisions, the right fiscal decisions, the right decisions for energy, the right decisions for the efficiency of the public sector, the right decisions about tackling corruption, the right decisions about our tax environment, the right decisions about our national security and public order.

I believe that if we maintain this level of confidence and I can speak because I am the head of the government that if we maintain this right path, Jamaica will achieve our 5% growth rate in the next four years. And as I said to the visiting delegation from Korea today, when our economy grows, electricity consumption grows and as demand catches up with consumption and you increase your scale, the price will come down and when the price of energy becomes more affordable the economy will grow and then we will find ourselves in a virtuous cycle. We have started on the virtuous cycle.

Thank very much ladies and gentlemen.