Up to last June, energy was a subject to which I directed little of my attention unless and until it came up in the context of the climate change challenge facing the Caribbean and — of course — on the monthly occasion of my electricity bill appearing in the mail.
Things have changed as my education has deepened — fuelled by an ever-ballooning interest and the development imperative with which I must contend as, inter alia, country head of a NGO, Panos Caribbean, which has, in particular, vulnerable and marginalised people as our focus.
This is even as we spotlight issues — old and emergent — on subjects including disaster risk reduction, climate justice and gender mainstreaming, among others, that are too often not given the degree of attention by critical stakeholders such as our media and politicians, which is required for lasting change, in the interest of communities.
Last June, the University of the West Indies hosted the energy and sustainable development forum in Kingston, Jamaica, bringing together a variety of regional energy and development actors.
The forum helped to bring into sharp focus the linkages between energy efficiency and sustainable development in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Indeed, if there was nothing else to come from that conference, it was the awareness — renewed, perhaps — that the one was necessary for the other.
One needs not look beyond the requirement of production in the region for energy. Higher energy costs — as has plagued member states due, inter alia, to a variety of inefficiencies — mean higher production costs, which translate into the higher cost of goods on our store shelves.
At the UWI energy forum, I spoke to Dr. Devon Gardner, programme manager for energy and head of the CARICOM Energy Unit about the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) that sets the framework for a set of energy goals in the region.
Included among the C-SERMS goals are:
- 20 per cent renewable power capacity by 2017 — a target missed, at least for the moment;
- 28 per cent by 2028; and
- 47 per cent by 2027.
It also sets targets for:
- a 33 per cent reduction in energy intensity (the cost of converting energy into GDP) by 2027; and
- a 47 per cent reduction by 2027.
The months since that forum have yielded more information and enhanced awareness about energy energy in the Caribbean.
- There is a lot going on in the region and involving a variety of national country actors, all of whom have some sort of policy/policy framework that treats with energy. In addition to the policies, there are a host of projects that have provided important lessons.
- The CARICOM Energy Programme is ambitious in its outlook and has a team of people and partners who are excited about energy and their planned programme of work. Among other things, they are looking at and undertaking research to match opportunities with capacities at country level while reimagining the future of CARICOM energy that takes account of renewables and which is market driven.
- Financing, capacity building and communications are especially critical for success in the move toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency in the region, in pursuit of sustainable development.
- Partnerships will be essential to realising CARICOM ambitions for energy.
- None of these are points lost on any of the key actors involved, including principals at CARICOM Energy, notably Gardner and his team.
This last point is nowhere more clear than in The Bahamas where the fifth Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) got under way earlier on Monday, January 23. It has attracted a variety of professionals, among them energy specialists, communicators, politicians and policymakers as well as development partners/donors — from the World Bank to the Inter-American Development Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as well as GIZ.
At the end of the three days of deliberations, the goal is to have a clearer picture of how to get the region where it needs to be concerning energy sustainability and efficiency.
This was reflected in the statements of presenters at the opening ceremony, among them Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie who has urged urgency in moving things from talk to action.
Tessa Williams-Robertson, head of the Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency at the CBD, for her part, had high praise for the CSEF.
“I recall the first CSEF that I attended in 2012 in St. Kitts and Nevis. I was impressed by the work that was being done then to promote a sustainable energy path for the region,” she recalled.
“The subsequent approval in 2013 of the CARICOM Energy Policy and the creation of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy and its regional targets, were watershed moments for all of us in the region. They provided the required focus and context for stakeholders to determine our specific roles, consistent with our comparative advantages,” she added.
“The role this forum plays in facilitating dialogue on sustainable energy development; creating a space for sharing good practices, ideas and lessons learned; and in driving decision-making, policy and action across the Caribbean, cannot be underestimated,” Williams-Robertson said further.