Clearing the way
The path towards renewable energy adoption in the Caribbean has been defined with the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Road Map and Strategy, and Minister with responsibility for energy matters, Senator Darcy Boyce, believes that the framework will serve to finally make alternative energy a regional mainstay.
He made these comments at the opening of the C-SERMS Resource Mobilisation Forum at the Accra Beach Hotel this morning where stakeholders included the Inter-American Development Bank and the German Agency for International Cooperation.
He noted that the Caribbean was at a crossroads in its economic history because it simply could not afford the high cost and volatile prices of fossil fuels. Boyce stated that the region’s development was constrained by “the uncertainty in the global environment; the volatility in international pricing of oil, which impacts severely on our competitiveness; the region’s high electricity rates, which are some of the highest in the world; our high level of imports and the slow growth in our foreign exchange earnings.”
He stressed that while, in the past, interest in renewable energy and energy conservation waned when oil prices were reduced, those days had ended — and, consequently, a new ideology had to be adopted with C-SERMS to help establish a strategic approach to a sustainable energy future for the region on short, medium and long-term targets.
Boyce said that he was heartened that at the 41st Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development held in February and March this year, the Revised Draft CARICOM Energy Policy, which focused heavily on the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency to propel the development of the region, was approved.
“I am also very pleased to see that the Council for Trade and Economic Development, at this meeting, approved the initial regional level targets for renewable energy contribution to total electricity generation in CARICOM. COTED agreed on targets for such contributions of 20 per cent in 2017, 28 per cent by 2022 and 47 per cent by 2027,” he said.
Boyce gave the assurance that while the targets may appear ambitious, a 29 per cent renewable energy contribution could be accomplished as early as 2017.
With these targets to be met and a host of national projects currently under way, the energy minister explained that the goal was to “democratise” the generation of electricity so property holders, both residential and commercial, could recognise their ability to contribute to energy security and the reduction of the fuel import bill.
He disclosed that an energy policy, which calls for greater use of renewable energy for both base load and interruptible supply, was being finalised for submission to Cabinet; while the 100 year-old Electric Light and Power Act would undergo a redraft in order to facilitate the sale of electricity to the grid at both the utility and distributed scale.
Other initiatives, Boyce revealed, included retrofitting of Government-owned buildings with energy efficient technologies, including solar electricity systems.
“We have established and begun disbursement of an IDB funded $10 million Energy Smart Fund for the private sector; we have negotiated and are awaiting signature of an IDB/European Union funded US $24.7 million Public Smart Energy Programme, that includes the retrofit of over 25,000 streetlights with LED street lighting and the retrofit of 12 government buildings for energy efficiency and generation of solar energy,” the minister said.
Plans for the construction of a Green Energy Complex are also at an advanced stage. This compound will use municipal solid waste and methane gas to create electricity to be used as base load, as well as solar PV, to generate interruptible energy. By extension, bagasse and other local biomass will be used at a cogeneration plant to produce electricity to be used as base load.
C-SERMS was established based on a mandate from the 30th Heads of Government Conference of CARICOM in 2009, which led to a decision to create a Regional Sustainable Energy Roadmap to guide, encourage and expedite the increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.