Wednesday, September 23, 2015

UWI/US Partnership Energizes Coastal Preservation Efforts

It's Official! The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the United States Department of the Interior (US DOI) on Monday September 21, 2015 launched the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficeint Project (REEEP) at the Port Royal Marine Laboratory (PRML). Participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony are: (L-R) Cynthia Perera, Deputy Director U.S. DOI International Technical Assistance Programme; Mrs. Elaine Robinson, Bursar, UWI Mona Campus; The Hon. Julian J. Robinson, Minister of State in the Ministry of  Science Technology, Energy and Mining; United States Ambassador Mr. Luis G. Moreno.

The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program (USDOI-ITAP) have unveiled the latest in a series of partnerships to install renewable energy and energy efficient infrastructures at two marine labs owned by UWI Mona, as well as at the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

The Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Project (REEEP), will reduce energy costs and enhance environmental education at its newest installation at the UWI’s Port Royal Marine Laboratory (PRML) as at its previous sites.

The project, valued at US$197,000, found its roots in 2012 with signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of the Interior (DOI), and the UWI Mona Campus, to serve as DOI in-country partners for work in Jamaica’s environmental education centers. After selecting the sites, providing technical assistance with the design and installation of the energy systems, USDOI-ITAP and UWI officially launched REEEP on Monday September 21, 2015 at the PRML and Biodiversity Centre.

“The aim is to change attitudes and thus see positive action towards the environment and climate change issues at all spheres of society.”  shared Dr. Mona Webber, Director of the Centre for Marine Sciences. "Thus we can achieve real improvement in our environment through conservation and wiser use of these resources.” 

In a statement, the USDOI-ITAP said, “The value that universities bring in educating the public as well as future environmental leaders cannot be overstated. The University of West Indies has a track record of excellence in bringing together the professionalism, expertise, and collaboration that are needed to ensure an effective and efficient implementation of this ambitious project. “

The installation of the renewable energy system will not only enhance the operations of the PRML, but also ensure reduced interruptions in operations. The PRML’s Biodiversity Centre, a chief development in the Lab’s significant upgrading and infrastructural improvements over the last few years, receives students and teachers from schools and colleges all over Jamaica and is also open for booking by individuals. With its primary objective being to focus and enhance environmental education of coastal habitats to help to foster wise use of these resources by all Jamaicans, accessibility is vital.

“Like many small island developing states, mitigating the impact of climate change and improving our energy efficiency are two crucial concerns that have affected our outlook on our regional sustainable development goals. With the assistance of the US Department of Interior’s International Technical Assistance Programme we have been able to address these issues under one umbrella,” remarked Professor Archibald McDonald, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI Mona Campus. “But what I find most useful is that the installation of photovoltaic and renewable energy systems at the labs will provide an opportunity for institutions and many businesses across the island to realize the potential of renewable energy and the benefits it has on sustaining a business and protecting our environment.”

The funding has also facilitated workshops convened for Government, NGOs and private stakeholders on the installation, operation and maintenance of the renewable energy systems and on various aspects of renewable energy and energy efficiency advocacy. These were hosted by the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. Of note is the fact that local suppliers and renewable providers were utilized by the project for all aspects of the installation.

USDOI-ITAP has a twenty-year track record of delivering technical expertise from DOI’s technical staff to counterpart agencies worldwide, with funding from the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In late 2012, USDOI-ITAP and the Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs entered into an Interagency Agreement under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas to provide technical assistance to relevant agencies in the Caribbean and in Central America on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and climate change adaptation. This agreement was designed to cover work in three countries. To date, DOI has been working in two countries, Jamaica and Panama.

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