Drought affecting Jamaica's hydropower output

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Jamaica's hydropower has fallen by 15% due to the drought currently affecting the country, local newspaper Jamaica Observer reported.

Local power utility JPS operates nine hydropower plants, with the capacity to contribute 23MW to the country's national grid. But diminished rainfall has affected river flows, which the plants rely on to produce power.

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Precipitation in June was 30% below average, according to environment minister Robert Pickersgill.

The utility's conventional power plants produce more than enough energy to cover the loss in renewable output. Independent power producers also contribute some 270MW to the national grid.

Less renewable energy, however, means higher use of fossil fuels and higher electricity bills.

"JPS is currently working on a proposal which is critically important to guiding the decision on what size power plant should be built to ensure we obtain the optimal generation mix and the best results for Jamaica and our customers," JPS corporate communication officer Audrey Williams was quoted as saying in the local newspaper.

A 34MW wind farm is scheduled to be commissioned in September 2015, and several solar projects are currently being developed. In addition, feasibility studies are being carried out on the country's hydro potential.

The government expects to see 15% of the country's electricity derived from renewable energy sources by next year.