THE SOLAR SCHOOL SOLUTION

“For us in the Caribbean, climate change is not a philosophical concept, or an academic debate, it is an existential issue … It is our reality! It requires urgent and effective action. We are ever mindful of our responsibility to strengthen our resilience and expedite efforts towards adaptation and mitigation.” Kamina Johnson Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade) stated in her speech to the UN in 2017 following two catastrophic hurricanes [1] 

3 years on, the economic viability of renewables has presented itself clear as day and yet the Jamaican Government continues to ignore both this and the climate science.

Economics

The cost of solar panels have plummeted but this goes unreported by the mainstream news media [2]. Jamaica receives copious amounts of sunshine and has electricity rates amongst the highest in the world [3]. In Jamaica the payback period for solar investment is under 4 years and only 6-8 years in the US [4]. Hence state investment in solar powered infrastructure is the clear cut best step for Jamaica’s economy, it’s people and the planet. 

The proposal is simple and applicable globally – apply prudence with taxpayers money.

However, all our schools, streetlights and other public infrastructure are on the grid. The annual state electricity bill is around US$150m so to take all infrastructure off the grid would cost an estimated US$600m. An obvious option is to borrow and replace electricity bills with loan repayments and own electricity generating assets. Jamaica is poor and such mismanagement is unconscionable.

A US$1 billion loan from the IMF (International Monetary Fund) – the extra US$400m for contingencies plus waste-to-energy – over a 20 year period would have repayments of US$52.5m. We’re currently wasting US$150m so education would be around US$100m better off and the country would own valuable assets without spending an extra dollar. Prudence.

The Abidjan Principles and the human right to education [5]

In Jamaica, education is grossly underfunded and consequently substandard (globally, UNESCO estimates education is underfunded by US$39 billion every year). This forces schools to charge fees simply to pay their astronomical electricity bills. However, free education is a human right. Governments are obligated to fund education to the best of their ability but schools are left impoverished as they continue to waste money on energy bills. This is also a violation and it must end.

Conclusion 

At least 30% of Jamaica’s electricity would be generated by this policy not to mention the socio-economic benefits [6]. Currently, 18% is generated from renewables so this policy would take Jamaica to around 50%. Mini-grids and wind would follow and without doubt the economic viability of fossil fuels would be threatened. Here, and throughout the tropics. 

This policy is based on fairness and even climate change deniers want justice, better education and governments to use their money properly. Conversely, the government’s policy is detrimental to the planet and economically unfair to it’s citizens [7].

Lives will have to be rebuilt after COVID-19 and state investment in renewables would aid recovery. Hence every nation should present the economic case for state investment in solar powered schools and renewables. Governments are using what is killing the children’s planet to power classrooms. Adding insult to injury, education suffers because money allocated to educate is used to do this. So let governments explain to children why they don’t want to improve education by investing in solar power. Whilst we are protesting “clean” LNG proliferates – the green PM wants Jamaica to be the regional LNG hub [8] – and educational standards deteriorate.

Private sector ownership of renewables will maintain inequality, poverty and injustice. The minerals that are required for the components will continue to be exploited and mined by children. We have the chance to create a renewable energy industry for all, the time is now.

#TheSolarSchoolSolution #Solarpower #BuildJamaica #FreeEducation

Twitter: @JamaicaBuild

Facebook: @BuildJamaicaBlog https://www.facebook.com/BuildJamaicaBlog/

Webpage: https://letsbuildabetterjamaica.com/


[1]http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jamaica_deeply_moved_by_onslaught_of_hurricanes_in_the_Cbean_Johnson_Smith_tells_UN?fbclid=IwAR1DC1qzMxetlcPt3Bbore_VqW48mI7vNz4snAdwPymu1F9qa9gL0hqHL7g 

[2]https://www.energiseafrica.com/news/the-prices-of-solar-panels-have-fallen-99-but-will-the-trend-continue 

[3] https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/electricity-rates-around-the-world.html 

[4] https://news.energysage.com/understanding-your-solar-panel-payback-period/  

[5] https://www.abidjanprinciples.org/en/background/overview  

[6] https://realjamaicablog.wordpress.com/2020/01/01/jta-the-case-for-state-owned-solar-powered-schools/

[7] https://m.facebook.com/story.php?stovry_fbid=2777312962356700&id=1404626999625310

[8] https://twitter.com/AndrewHolnessJM/status/1154392322332876803?s=09 

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