Jamaica Energy Partners
offering leading electrical solutions
Supplying the electricity for the region, Jamaica Energy Partners ‘lights’ the way
Jamaica Energy Partners (JEP) is an independent power producer (IPP) whose primary business is generating and selling electricity to Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), the sole electricity distributor in Jamaica. JPS is responsible for transmitting and distributing electricity to over 600,000 customers in Jamaica.
The industry relies primarily on heavy fuel sources, especially oil, which accounts for over 90% of the country’s energy mix. However, in recent years, the government has made efforts to diversify the country’s energy mix and increase the use of renewable energy sources.
As one of the main IPPs in the country, JEP’s commitment is to generate energy at the lowest cost possible while providing customers with the highest level of service. The company is dedicated to delivering power safely and responsibly to protect the environment and remains ready to meet the country’s expanding energy demands by utilizing local expertise.
After taking over the Doctor Bird Power Plant, Jamaica Energy Partners (JEP) commenced operations in September 1995. Currently, JEP is Jamaica’s biggest Independent Power Producer (IPP).
It owns and manages two power barges named Doctor Bird I and Doctor Bird II, which produce 74.2 MW and 50.2 MW, respectively. Together, they generate 124.4 MW. Doctor Bird II was added in March 2006, located almost 300 yards away from the original barge.
JEP’s associated firm, West Kingston Power Partners (WKPP), is a 65.5 MW Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) power plant in Western Kingston. It is considered one of Jamaica’s most visually appealing plants and serves as JEP’s head office, previously located in New Kingston.
Additionally, JEP is responsible for managing the Jamaica Private Power Company (JPPC), an Independent Power Provider (IPP) that runs a 60MW power plant in Rockfort, Kingston. JPPC uses slow-speed diesel generators and HFO to generate electricity for the national grid.
Following the addition of WKPP in July 2012 and the acquisition of JPPC in March 2019, JEP’s total generating capacity has increased to around 250 MW, making it one of Jamaica’s primary electricity providers. JEP, JPPC, and WKPP, owned by the InterEnergy Group, supply nearly 40% of the national grid’s energy needs.
“Over the years, we’ve transitioned JEP from the inefficient practices of the past to modern methods that lower aggregate pricing to the ratepayer and generate efficiencies across the business,” says President and Chief Executive Officer Wayne McKenzie.
“Another significant transformation that JEP has undergone over the years is developing a corporate social responsibility program targeting high schoolers. We offer the scholarships through the University of West Indies, the University of Technology, and the Caribbean Maritime University.”
“At the same time, we approach universities to run internship programs for graduates, meaning marine engineers emerging from Caribbean Maritime University would join an internship program at JEP and matriculate to the marine environment.”
“Many having left school and gone through the program have access to jobs, while many others work for established shipping companies worldwide.”
Fostering deeper ties with the area’s universities paid off. Before the program rolled out, the plant was run only by seasoned engineers, most of whom were out of touch with modern technologies and trends. Bringing fresh blood from the universities helped increase the plant’s performance and efficiency.
“We had multiple unit failures every year,” he shares. “By bringing in core engineers from the universities, our failure rate went all the way down, and our insurance premium also reduced because we mitigated the risk of failures.”
“We also bring in environmentalists, safety officers, chemical engineers, and those we cannot absorb after the internship find jobs in other industries due to the internship.”
“Also, although we are an engineering company, our scholarship isn’t solely focused on engineering, covering a wide array of recipients like doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, accountants, etc.”
As one of several IPPs in Jamaica, JEP has distinguished itself as the country’s only fully 100% Jamaican-run and operated producer, something McKenzie is hugely proud of.
“We started that shift in the early 2000s to manage and operate the asset using local expertise, which we have now achieved, unlike our competitors. For example, when building Dr. Bird I, the marine designs, and constructions were done by Jamaican firms.”
“In this dimension and others, JEP has become a pioneer in the electric sector, and several other companies who came in later are following our footprints.”
“Another distinguishing factor is that we recognize we are a fossil fuel plant. All our assets burn heavy fuel, but we recognize there is an energy transition underway. We acknowledge this disruptive but good transition as necessary for resiliency, energy security, and nation-building.”
To this end, JEP has set up internal processes to model how the plant can convert its existing assets to gas. The company is also exploring renewable energy sources, gearing up to participate through a request for proposal with the government of Jamaica to bid on renewable assets as soon as those bids become available.
“The other option we are looking at with renewals is an acquisition route. If we can buy into renewable assets, whether wind or solar, we are poised to do that too.”
Making such big bets on renewables will come at no small cost. However, JEP’s commitment to renewables is resolute, and as McKenzie says, they are ready to make the necessary investments and foster the right strategic partnerships when the time is right.
“Transitioning from fuel to clean and green will require the recapitalization of assets, including converting all three assets to gas.”
“The other thing we are doing is seeking a suitable gas partner to import and transport the gas to where our assets are located. While there is a gas supplier in Jamaica, we are open to speaking with other suitable partners within the gas supply chain to see if they are interested in coming to Jamaica.”
While the company shops around for a gas supplier, it continues to rely on its current partners to fulfill its core mandate. Its primary partner, as McKenzie explains, is not the typical partner one would consider.
“Our biggest partner is the communities we work within. We operate in East Kingston and West Kingston, areas people consider volatile, yet we have had no issues.”
“We also get tremendous support from the government of Jamaica. They keep us advised on policy direction and engage us for expertise. We sit on the Energy Council and, consequently, participate in the direction that the government is taking, especially regarding the transition to clean and green.”
Other key partners JEP relies on are Wärtsilä, MAN, ABB, AlphaLaval, and PetroJam.
Looking ahead, JEP’s five-year plan starting from 2018 is still in the offing, and McKenzie is committed to seeing it through.
“Part of the plan involves evaluating PPA extensions,” he says. “We are also exploring the possible conversion of our assets to gas through a strategic partnership with a gas supplier or suppliers.”
“This second part is crucial not just for us as a business opportunity but more importantly from a Jamaican perspective because the price of electricity is so high. Such a step would see commercial and industrial enterprises tapping into this potential energy source, lowering their production costs and enhancing Jamaica’s exports to the United States, Europe, and Canada.
“Another area we are looking at is positioning ourselves for the renewable energy market and participating in the bids. We’ll be looking at multiple technologies to ensure that when the government announces a bid for renewable energy, we will actively participate, whether wind, solar or biomass.”
“We’re currently getting all our ducks in a row to ensure that when these opportunities emerge, we’ll be ready.”
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AT A GLANCE
Jamaica Energy Partners
What: The leading eclectic supplier for the Jamaican region with renewable options in the pipeline
Where: Kingston, Jamaica, the Caribbean region
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MSHS (formerly Motor Services Hugo Stamp/Governor Control Systems) specializes in engine services, control systems, and engineered solutions for the Marine and Industrial sectors. MSHS’ experienced engineers are service experts for all types of power generation systems including engine upgrades, overhauls, and auxiliary services. With full-service workshops in Louisiana, Florida, and the Caribbean, MSHS’ turn-key solutions reduce downtime while improving operational efficiency.