MBJ Airports Ltd (MBJ), operators of Sangster International Airport (SIA), will shave a little over $158 million off its electricity bill in 2022, part of a wider effort to become carbon-neutral.
The average bill is now $480 million a year.
“So you can see how important it is for us, right? Energy costs in Jamaica are one of the highest in the region, and we are a major user of electricity,” MBJ CEO Shane Munroe told LetsTravelCaribbean.com in a sit-down to discuss what’s ahead for SIA.
SIA, which earlier this year was named the Caribbean’s Leading Airport for the 14th year by World Travel Awards, is in the throes of a US$100-million expansion, key aspects of which come on-stream in 2022. This includes the January arrival of equipment that will help them generate two megawatts of solar energy. The panels will be placed on top of carports being installed to provide much-needed shade for vehicles parked by staff and airport users.
In 2021, in the first phase of the solar project, MBJ generated one megawatt of energy in what Munroe described as “perhaps one of the largest installations… in Jamaica”. That cut their electricity bill by 11 per cent. The two megawatts that will come on-stream in the second quarter of 2022 will take them to 33 per cent in total savings.
“It really is a very deliberate effort to go to 100 per cent renewables. Our goal, eventually, is to be carbon-neutral,” said the CEO.
But it will take a Herculean effort to get to where they eventually want to be.
“To get there is difficult. In Jamaica it’s even more difficult because our regulatory framework still has certain restrictions. But, from the initial survey that we have done, we see that the opportunity is there,” said Munroe.
Challenges ahead, as they ramp up energy production, include storage and the added cost that comes with that. They have enlisted the help of an engineering firm to guide them.
“…We’re doing a detailed study on it. We have external consultants on board helping us with the feasibility — not just the technical feasibility, but the economic feasibility as well. That study is going to look at what we’re producing now, what our consumption is today, the areas of the airport that we can expand and build out renewables further,” said Munroe.
This push to reduce carbon emissions and generate its own energy supply is fuelled by a combination of cost cutting and corporate responsibility, the CEO explained.
“From a corporate level, we talk about sustainability and use of our resources; this just makes total sense for us. If we’re being serious corporate citizens, and… we’re not just talking empty words, renewables makes sense. We think we can really reduce our carbon footprint significantly… In terms of climate change, we are very serious,” said Munroe.
Most of the lights at the airport are now energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED), as well Munroe and his team have participated in a pilot project to reduce the amount of diesel fuel used at the gates, and they are aggressively pushing ahead with the use of solar.
Efforts to reduce the SIA’s carbon footprint have already earned MBJ global recognition. It was recently recognised by an airport carbon accreditation programme, a coveted stamp of approval.
“It’s about receiving external independent bodies to assess and accredit what you are doing. So not just to say, ‘Yes, we are doing something,’ and we have no idea where we are. We have established a baseline for our carbon emissions and now we are going to move into the next step of reduction,” said Munroe.