Clear vision needed for energy cooperation – UWI professor tells CSEF VI

Professor Anthony Bryan makes his presentation on Monday (Photo by Rosi Arbieto)
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A clear vision of Caribbean energy cooperation is necessary, a University of the West Indies professor said Monday.

Speaking at the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) in Belize, Professor Anthony Bryan, Ph.D., said that cooperation must integrate energy policy with trade, economic, environmental, security and foreign policy, while broadening dialogue with producing and consuming countries alike.

He was addressing the Forum on the subject of Geopolitics, Climate Change and Energy Governance in the Caribbean on the first full day of discussions at the Forum. CSEF brings together policymakers, the private sector, experts and other stakeholders in energy to assess where the Community was in its quest towards a sustainability energy pathway. A CARICOM biennial event, the Forum this year is held under the theme ‘Clean Energy, Good Governance and Regulations’.

Professor Bryan is a leading scholar and an independent consultant on energy development (oil and natural gas), energy security, and energy geopolitics.

He pointed out to CSEF participants that the only certainty in geopolitics was uncertainty, and it was within that context that energy planning was located.

Underlining the importance of the sector to regional development, he said that there were likely to be more challenges as countries made energy more central in their planning and it also would highlight the geopolitical implications of shifting away from fossil fuels.

Highlighting the effects fossil fuels had on geopolitics, Professor Bryan said that the most highly concentrated deposits of oil, natural gas and coal had helped to determine the global balance of power over the past century, with a small number energy rich states such as those in the Middle East wielding tremendous influence.

“…renewable energy will change geopolitics”, he said, but it will not have the same kinds of international oligopolies.

“For one thing, renewable energies are practically universal. There is not a country on the world that lacks wind, sunlight, water and bio-energy of any kind …Plans for the generating wind, solar and hydropower, the predominant renewable energy sources… don’t require fuel and by extension no fuel shipments. In addition, renewable energy generation by its very nature is intermittent – the sun shines, the wind blows, the rivers flow, regardless of geography, further evening the geopolitical playing field. Compared with the more traditional fuels like oil and gas and coal, renewable energies have a much higher potential for decentralized generation”, Professor Bryan said.

Some developing countries, including some in the Caribbean – Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana – “stood to lose” because of the transition to renewables.

A solar producer, or renewable energy producer, would not have the same status and influence as an oil producer and would not have the same geopolitical permanence, he noted.

Chronic condition

The rising burden faced by governments, companies and sectors, the rising cost of health care suggested that climate change was a chronic condition, he said.

“It is not an esoteric global issue; it is a profoundly local issue”, he said. He pointed to coastal flooding stemming from sea level rise; the flooding from climate-related storms, and drew attention to the specific examples of the devastating floods that hit Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Venezuela recently. He also reminded delegates of the devastating hurricanes that swept through the Region last year.

He spoke of the social and economic upheaval, erosion of sovereignty, sections of populations becoming stateless, and the fact that currently, there were no international rules for those who are forced to leave home because of climate change.

“Climate change will test international systems in new and unpredictable ways. It will make international tensions more severe”, he warned.

He predicted that countries would fight over water-sharing and that fresh water was going to be the ingredient that would spark some of the worst conflicts in the future.

But while his warnings were dire, Professor Bryan said the occurrences could be avoided if leaders “infused the global order with a sense of common purpose”. Common purpose, he said, identified the profound changes in the distribution of power.

China, the United States and other big powers would have to work closely together and other non-state actors would have to play their part, he added.

A number of presentations, panels and workshops over the four days of the Forum addressed matters of climate change and resilience; the acceleration of a clean energy marketing development in CARICOM; reducing the implementation deficit; island-appropriate clean energy development, making the Caribbean climate-smart and the clean energy transition in CARICOM.

The CSEF VI is being co-hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat and the Government of Belize, in partnership with the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) and the Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR). Key sponsorship and technical support for the staging of the CSEF VI will be provided by the TAPSEC, which is being implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ); the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE); the Organisation of American States (OAS); the Public Utilities Commission (PUC); Belize Electricity Limited; and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).

It concluded on Wednesday.

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