Climate resilient energy underscored at regional workshop

Participants at the Workshop held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2017
Participants at the Workshop held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2017

The impact of the recent hurricanes on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has served to further emphasise the urgency of generating a climate resilient energy supply, and the need to avoid the mass consumption of carbon based fuels.

The widespread destruction hurricanes caused in the Region was the focus of the remarks of speakers at the opening of a Regional Energy Investments Workshop held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 20-22 September, 2017.

The Workshop was hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat’s Energy Programme with joint support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) executed Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance (REETA) Programme (GIZ-REETA) and the Promoting Access to Clean Energy Services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (PACES) Project administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Sustainable energy project developers, financiers, government representatives and other key players in the energy and finance sectors from across the Region participated in the forum. The Workshop was held at a time when the Region was reeling from the impact of back to back Category Five Hurricanes.

Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, in his address, spoke of the reality of climate change and its impacts on the economies of small island developing states such as Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba and Dominica, which were recently devastated.

In that regard, he called for ceasing the mass consumption of carbon based fuels, in recognition of their contribution to global warming and climate change. He asserted that St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was determined as a matter of policy to “walk the talk”, having been one of the first signatories to the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement. Furthermore, he highlighted some of the major projects worth over US$100 million that were being undertaken within the framework of the National Energy Policy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Noteworthy, were the 150 kW and 800 kW solar PV micro-grid projects for Mayreau and Union Island respectively, which are expected to significantly reduce electricity generation operating costs on those islands. Additionally, the installation of three solar farms at the Argyle International Airport is underway.

While there are currently no wind developments, St Vincent and the Grenadines has benefited from investment in hydropower with emerging contribution from solar PV and geothermal. In looking ahead, given that there were plans to exploit geothermal resources in the near future, he affirmed that priority had been placed on building the capacity of the Energy Unit to manage the geothermal operations.

Climate resilient energy supply

A climate resilient energy supply will become a very important topic in the Community, given the hurricane-wrought destruction, regional energy partner, Mr. Simon Zellner said.

The representative of the (GIZ-REETA) project in the Region, Mr. Simon Zellner pointed out that a climate resilient energy supply was not important only for the GIZ, but for the CARICOM Region as well.  He said that efforts were underway to assist CARICOM to make the shift towards greater utilisation of sustainable energy options at the national and regional levels.

In his remarks, Mr. Zellner welcomed regional participants and lamented the absence of some officials because of the passage of Hurricane Maria. He expressed sympathy for the loss of lives and personal effects in Dominica and the northern Caribbean islands.

Support towards the Region’s quest for sustainable energy, he said, was currently being provided to institutions to aid in identifying modalities and the development of initiatives to get projects implemented. One such initiative is the CARICOM BEEP (Building Energy Efficiency Project) that focuses on the introduction of low and no-cost EE measures in public buildings, Energy Management Systems and training of facility managers. The Integrated Utility Services Model (IUS), which was driven by CARICOM and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), is another intervention being undertaken.

Mr. Zellner also referred to the German Government and European Union-funded Technical Assistance Programme for Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean (TAPSEC) supporting Renewable Energy (RE) and Energy Efficiency (EE) which is expected to be executed later this year.

The UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Stephen O’Malley in his remarks, also took note of the destruction and lives lost as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. He said that the storms were reminders of climate change, the hazards associated with the phenomenon and the numerous threats faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDs).

The representative said that while there maybe concerns about the cost of action, the cost of inaction was far greater. The UNDP, he said, will continue to work within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as its own Strategic Plan to provide support for many climate change and energy- related initiatives within the Caribbean. One such initiative was the Promoting Access to Clean Energy Services (PACES) Project which focuses on climate change mitigation and the promotion renewable energy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Representative said that the workshop was a vital forum for the sharing knowledge.

Vulnerability to extreme weather events

Globally, the focus on the sustainable energy sector had never been higher with governments setting ambitious targets for the amount of energy provided by renewable energy sources and reduction in energy intensity, CARICOM Representative, Ms. Nadia Mohammed, said in her remarks.

She said that there was the need for access to secure, cost effective energy products and services as this was key to economic transformation. She recalled that goal of CARICOM Energy Ministers, announced in 2013, of providing the Region with 28 per cent of its power through renewable energy sources in 2022 and 47 per cent in 2027 as outlined in the C-SERM. Attention was drawn to the fact that most of the Region depended heavily on expensive imported petroleum and as such the need for scaling up of renewables was undisputed

A key point made by Ms. Mohammed was that the Region’s entire energy chain supply was significantly vulnerable to climate variability and extreme weather events. This she believed would have direct impact on supply, demand, power infrastructure and transportation.

The Workshop provided outcome-oriented training, primarily geared towards financial analysis of projects to address risks and present attractive investment proposals. The focus was on energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

Participants were exposed to life cycle cost concept, dynamic financial calculation and relevant key performance indicators for investment decisions. Organisers hoped that participants would be able to perform calculation and financial modelling of their own sustainable energy projects.