Opening Remarks By Hon. Andrew Wheatley, Ph.D Minister of Science, Energy and Technology – Groundbreaking Ceremony – Caribbean’s First Net-zero Energy Building

Groundbreaking Ceremony, UWI Institute for Sustainable Development

May 10, 2016

The great physicist Albert Einstein is noted as saying “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

It is undeniable that the global energy challenges today are the result of our own doing. Certainly at the local level, our consumption driven energy system is characterized by the high demand for fuel at an average rate of 20 million barrels of oil per annum. Jamaica’s resulting energy architecture includes an unsustainable 2015 oil import bill of US$1.1billion or 10.3% of our Gross Domestic Product.

As scientists, we amongst other things solve problems in the world through innovation and by creating new.

It is therefore no surprise that as the Caribbean’s premier institution for research, the University of the West Indies, a place I call home, and more specifically the Institute for Sustainable Development, has taken this initiative in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy with the creation of a net-zero energy building prototype for Jamaica and the Caribbean.

I am very pleased with efforts like this and, I acknowledge and commend the various players: the Institute for spearheading the project, the United Nations Environment Programme for providing technical assistance, as well as the Global Environment Facility, who has provided the financial support.

Innovations such as this net-zero building is synergistic with government policy of economic growth: a basis for strategies to revolutionize our energy supply, power generation, transmission and distribution as well as, consumption habits. The singular goal of these strategies must be the maximizing of the GDP created by each million British thermal unit (or mmBtu) of energy employed.

Impact of Net Zero Buildings

The adaptation and implementation of Net Zero Buildings will go a far way in:

  • Reducing carbon footprint
  • Ensuring future utility cost savings
  • Improving daylighting with less glare
  • Increasing worker productivity and comfort.

Government Initiatives through Energy Conservation and Efficiency

The Government of Jamaica is committed to energy security and increased energy efficiency. In that regard, and as many of you are already aware, there are a number of initiatives that are geared towards a better performance in our utilization of energy. Specifically, efficiency is about yield per unit of energy consumed. This yield is the challenge of our time as a nation, and speaks to creation of GDP. So it is critical as a community, that we become focused on the value creation from our employment of energy resources.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme, for example, is geared towards enhancing Jamaica’s energy efficiency and conservation through the design and implementation of cost saving measures in the public sector of Jamaica. In leading by example, to date we have:

  • 29 facilities that have received Solar Control Film applications
  • 10 facilities that have received a combination of Cool Roof and Solar Film applications
  • One (1) facility, the Jamaica Information Service, which was completely retrofitted with Solar Control Film, Cool Roof and more energy efficient A/C units and,
  • Three (3) facilities that have also been retrofitted with more energy efficient A/C units

Accordingly, this Public Sector Energy Efficient Conservation Programme has scored more than a modest achievement in:

  • The J$100 million total cumulative savings in less than 2 years and,
  • Approximately 3 Megawatt hour (mWhr) reduction in energy consumption

Another flagship project of the Ministry is the Energy Security and Efficiency Enhancement Programme.

In its focus on alternatives, Hydropower Prefeasibility and Feasibility studies are in various stages of completion at 11 selected sites.

Renewable Energy Potential for Jamaica/ Renewable Energy Policy

Our Government recognizes the importance of renewable energy within a portfolio of low-carbon and cost-competitive energy technologies, capable of responding to the challenges of energy security and climate change.

As an administration, we intend to develop and implement a Green Energy Policy to:

  • Encourage the most efficient type of electricity generation alongside alternative energy sources
  • Enforce energy efficiency standards and codes for appliances and buildings with the goal of reducing energy consumption of new buildings by 50% by 2020 and ensuring that all new buildings use zero net energy by 2050

Developers within the real estate and construction market may understand the implications for building codes as they re-position to construct residential and commercial properties that are classified as net zero buildings.

For us therefore, this endeavour is quite timely, as it coincides with our vision and programme for Jamaica’s energy development.

I must highlight to our investors and householders the inclusiveness of our development model: you may explore the earnings and savings possible under the Net Billing arrangements that came into effect on April 11 of this year; the first major achievement of this administration in the energy portfolio.


As the new energy minister, I am heartened that more entities are following the lead of Government, as well as, creating new initiatives with an increasing rate of individual innovation.

I encourage more institutions (both public and private) to get onboard, do their own research and to share the results with our national community. UWI in particular must continue to lead in creating the knowledge which will drive indigenous Jamaican growth.

Let us congratulate and support the UWI Institute for Sustainable Development on this Net Zero Building Ground-breaking. I am eager to see the results of the project, the lessons to be learnt and the knowledge that is being created.

Thank you.