10 months ago

Climate Action 2010-2011

Policy and Governance

Policy and Governance Great Hall – Harrison’s Cave. Solar, wind and geothermal energy – Success stories from the Caribbean Senator Liz Thompson Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate of Barbados Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, spending billions of dollars per annum on imported petroleum. However, governments are growing increasingly aware of the benefits of investing in home-grown renewable energy technologies (RETs), including solar, geothermal and wind power. Harnessing the energy from these renewable resources could open the door to environmentally sustainable development in the SIDS of the Caribbean and build a genuinely sustainable, green economy. There is a view that fossil fuels and RETs are opposite sides of the energy coin. They are not. Instead they are disparate pieces of one side of the coin with the other side being development. To date, global efforts have been unable to craft the components of these respective pieces to ensure that they interlock. The choice is not between renewables or fossil fuels; it is in how best we marry the two to achieve national strategic development goals. Nowhere is the challenge more immediate than in SIDS which the UN has already identified as being on the frontline in the defence against climate change. The island-states of the Caribbean face development challenges which are all fundamentally linked to the environment – access to affordable energy; land management and usage; solid waste management; planning for extreme weather events; profound water stress and water scarcity; and the mitigation of climate | 22 | change impacts. These issues are particularly acute in small island states such as the Caribbean, which derive a significant percentage of their revenues and foreign exchange earnings from tourism. Fossil fuel dependency in the Caribbean In the Caribbean, 95 per cent of all energy consumed comes from fossil fuels, with Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago producing hydrocarbons for export. The islands of Barbados, Belize, and Suriname also produce a certain amount of oil which principally offsets domestic consumption. Outside of these exceptions, Caribbean countries are net importers of fossil fuels. Yet, on many islands there is tremendous potential for renewable energy – geothermal, solar and photovoltaic, hydro, wind, biofuels and biomass. These rich and inexhaustible energy sources lie largely unexplored and unexploited. In recent years, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent have all initiated offshore hydrocarbon exploration programmes. The hope is to find commercially viable quantities of oil which will enable national energy independence and earn muchneeded foreign exchange from export. Despite the vigour with which the offshore hydrocarbon potential is being pursued, these same islands have expressed a willingness to consider RETs where appropriate, dependent upon national circumstances.

Policy and Governance Figure 1: Global solar water heater use, total capacity 2008 per 1,000 inhabitants (kWth/1,000 inh). Credit: International Energy Agency, Solar Heating and Cooling Programme, 2008. The billion-dollar crude oil bill The Caribbean’s total fuel import bill was US$6.5 billion in 2004. Three years later, at the end of 2007, fuel imports climbed to US$12 billion. While official figures are not yet available for regional fuel expenditure in 2008, the doubling of energy prices to an historic high of US$147 per barrel in the first half of that year would have had a corollary impact on expenditure. In the Caribbean, only Barbados, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago are not signatories to the PetroCaribe Agreement. Drawn up by Venezuela and launched in 2005, the agreement was to supply fuel under deferred payment terms and establish an energy management structure for the Americas. Latin American signatory countries include loan financier Venezuela, along with Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Caribbean Signatory Countries are; Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. By December 2007, just two and a half years after the signing in 2005, signatory countries had amassed a total debt of US$1.17 billion. In supplying these figures, eminent Caribbean economist, Norman Girvan, projected that the debt owed by Caribbean signatory countries to Venezuela under PetroCaribe would reach US$4.5 billion by 2010. This was the estimated debt prior to the 2008 super-spike in oil prices. Renewable Energy Technology – making the transition According to the World Energy Outlook 2009, “governments hold the key to changing the mix of energy investment. The policy and regulatory frameworks established at national and international levels will determine whether investment and consumption decisions are steered towards lowcarbon options.” Starting in 2007, seven Caribbean countries developed and published National Energy Policies (NEPs), namely Anguilla, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia and St Vincent. Significantly, Dominica subtitled its policy ‘A Platform for Development’ while Grenada named theirs ‘A Low Carbon Development Strategy’. Some of the policies were entirely home-grown, some followed regional collaborations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and others grew out of efforts with regional development partners including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Bank, the European Union, the German Society for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Programme under the Organization of American States (OAS). These policies vary in strength and approach but they all promote a transition to RETs such as is appropriate for countries’ individual socioeconomic circumstances and resource availability. The policies advocate an energy mix of RETs to fossil fuels in ratios varying between 15 and 30 per cent by 2020/2030. | 23 |