Jamaica is engaging an Italian firm to carry out a feasibility study at a cost of 109 million Jamaican dollars (1.12 million U.S. dollars) on five sites around the island nation to develop hydropower, the authorities said Tuesday.
The study, which will start this month, is funded by a 15 million-U.S.dollar loan from the World Bank under a project designed to assist Jamaica in improving energy efficiency and security, the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ) said in a statement.
The Jamaican government has earmarked 2.5 million U.S. dollars for the hydropower project that will be supervised by the PCJ, an agency of the Energy Ministry.
"As we look to the greater use of hydropower in Jamaica's energy mix, we believe that this project is quite important and it will provide us with some of the critical data that will encourage our private sector players to look more closely at the opportunities that exist within hydropower," Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said.
"So we're happy about the work that is to be done and we are looking forward to its early and successful completion," he added.
The drive to develop hydropower in Jamaica, which spends an estimated 2.2 billion U.S. dollars annually on oil imports, forms part of the government's thrust to reduce the country's dependence on fossil fuel for energy generation.
Under a national energy policy, at least 20 percent of Jamaica's energy supply must come from renewable sources by 2030. About 5 percent of the country's energy is currently derived from renewable resources.
"The government is entirely committed to diversifying our energy sources, recognizing that we have been captive to a dominant source -- imported fossil fuel -- for many years, and we now have to move rapidly away from that capture to incorporate some of our own domestic sources, namely renewables," Paulwell said.
According to the PCJ, Studio Pietrangeli, an Italian engineering services firm that has designed more than 200 major hydropower projects in various locations across the globe, will conduct the feasibility study for Jamaica.
The company is required to carry out site investigations, topographical and geotechnical assessments, detailed cost estimates, construction schedules and socio-environmental impact assessments.