IMF Watch: Coal For Jamaica’s Fuel Diversity?

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Energy or fuel diversification have become important buzzwords in Jamaica in recent years as the country struggles to rein in its runaway electricity costs. While oil is the most common fuel source, it is extremely expensive and the price is unstable due to global economic conditions. Analysts have argued that the roots of Jamaica’s energy problem is our over-dependence on oil, which is used to produce more than 95 per cent of our power. Jamaica’s oil imports amounted to US$2.4 billion in 2011. The high price of oil then translates to an equally high cost for electricity: at US$0.42 per kWh, Jamaica has one of the highest electricity price tags in the world.

While investments have been made in areas of renewable energy such as solar and wind power generation, Jamaicans have not seen a plan to create a full-scale industry, neither has there been a concrete plan regarding fuel diversification. In addition to the aforementioned renewables, other energy sources often cited as suitable alternatives for Jamaica are coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, the government finally ended its attempt at introducing LNG as the solution to the country’s high electricity prices in January of this year. Today, we look at some benefits and disadvantages of using coal.

Benefits

  1. Coal is one of the most abundant sources of energy, more so than oil and natural gas.
  2. Coal has a comparatively stable price on the open market due to large reserves worldwide. It is also relatively simple to mine.
  3. Coal is easy to burn and produces high energy upon combustion.
  4. Burning coal can produce useful by-products that can be used for other industries or products

Disadvantages

  1. The burning of coal also produces harmful byproducts and gas emissions such as sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
  2. Coal mining endangers the lives of miners due to cave-ins and explosions. Mining also damages the environment the coal is removed from.
  3. Coal is non-renewable. In fact, there are limited stocks of coal remaining, which may be entirely depleted this millennium if the current rate of burning continues.

What do you think about this alternative fuel option and about local energy diversification efforts in general? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.