Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, says the aim of the Government’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is to develop the country’s energy industry and provide cheaper alternative energy sources for Jamaicans at all levels of the society.“For the first time, the energy sector will be developed in a structural way consistent with the National Energy Policy. Our Integrated Resource Plan is our blueprint that we are developing for the energy sector,” he explained.The Minister was speaking at a breakfast meeting with key stakeholders of the IRP, with the aim of sensitising them about the 20-year plan’s objectives, and partnerships being sought to achieve its goals. The meeting was held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on October 13.The IRP is a comprehensive decision support tool and road map for meeting Jamaica’s electricity grid objectives over the next 20 years between 2018 and 2038.“As a nation that heavily depends on fossil fuels, we recognise the need for reliable sustained and affordable energy supplies going forward. Our overdependence on imported fossil fuel has not only cost us deeply over the years, in terms of foreign exchange, investments, productivity and growth, but it has also forced us to look towards cheaper energy, including renewable and alternative energy sources,” the Minister explained.Dr. Wheatley said if stakeholders at all levels keenly follow the guidelines of the IRP and work alongside the Government towards achieving the goals, this will result in the nation’s productivity being increased, cheaper goods being offered for trade and a reduction in energy costs at all levels.“Every single Jamaican is affected by the high cost of energy, [such as] entrepreneurs with good business ideas, manufacturers with export and employment potential, householders, investors [and] persons within the agribusiness sector,” the Minister said.“Today we continue to rely heavily on fuel oil, coupled with the age and inefficiency of many of the conventional power plants in Jamaica. This has resulted in high generation costs. We need some 20 million barrels of oil, and this can cost the country anywhere within the region of some US$2 billion. Our export [and] our manufacturing sector will become uncompetitive if we maintain a high energy cost,” Dr. Wheatley added.He pointed out that the Administration believes that for the country to achieve real growth, “we must provide access to cheap energy”.“We have moved aggressively to incorporate natural gas and other alternative energy sources. However, there is definitely more that needs to be done. It is within this context that the Integrated Resource Plan is being developed as a critical tool for assessing our future energy demands and providing options for meeting the Government’s policy objectives,” the Minister said.“The IRP will provide to all stakeholders, including the investment community, a clear view of the agreed suite of investments for the medium to long term. It will certainly add a level of predictability as to the planned investments for Jamaica’s electricity sector, timelines for the completion of each, and a clear methodology for participation,” he noted.Dr. Wheatley is urging all Jamaicans to find interest in the IRP and play their role in ensuring the goals are achieved by 2038.