Friday, October 18, 2013

High Cost Of Electricity Undermining Caribbean’s Economic Growth

The high cost of electricity is undermining economic growth in the Caribbean region says OAS Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin.
Ramdin spoke at the opening ceremony for the 2013 Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF) held in Aruba October 9-11th. Over 425 delegates- Energy Ministers and Utility officials- from 42 countries were in attendance, including representatives from 20 Caribbean territories.
Ramdin advised the Caribbean officials to explore renewable energy sources in order to address high energy costs. He said the effect on the cost of almost all goods and services is high, ultimately undermining economic growth and investments; however decision makers seemed to not be embracing the idea of going green for their energy needs.
“The Caribbean is capable of solving some of its own problems in this sector. Sun, heat, water and wind, all offer opportunities. In spite of this, renewable energy does not appear to feature prominently on the priority list of many of our policy makers,” he said.
The OAS Executive called for regional collaboration to promote greater use of renewable technology in the Caribbean. He said there appears to be a “disconnect between understanding that renewable energy technology will facilitate less dependence on traditional sources of energy and fossil fuels…and the ability to implement and pursue a renewable energy agenda”.
Ramdin encouraged policymakers to utilize the expertise and financial assistance available in order to establish renewable energy projects.
Other presenters at the event included Energy experts from the US and other countries along with financiers and renewable energy equipment providers. The esteemed list included Lynn Tabernacki, Managing Director- Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development, OPIC- USA; Miguel Toledo, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation (IFC); Dr. Carl Kukkonen, CEO & Co-Founder, Viaspace- USA; Adam Warren, Group Manager, Project Development & Finance, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)- USA; Migara Jayawardena, Senior Energy Specialist, World Bank; and Ernie Stapleton,Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Utilities and Renewable Energy in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA).
With the price of oil continuing to trend upwards experts posit that the Caribbean, with almost no fossil fuel sources, needs to pursue renewable transactions and projects.
Against this backdrop, St. Kitts and Nevis has made significant strides in confronting its energy challenges- the Nevis government is still pursuing geothermal exploration while St. Kitts recently opened a solar energy farm.
As an incentive for persons to acquire energy efficient technology the federal government has removed Customs Duty and Value Added Tax (VAT) on the importation of renewable energy products.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy Lenrick Lake encouraged both commercial and residential electricity consumers to install green technology, saying it was not only environmentally friendly but economically savvy.
He said the government has also recognized the important role it plays in facilitating the implementation of its energy efficiency policy and goals and has developed short to long term measures to achieve them.
“The government of St. Kitts-Nevis is here to forge a partnership with businesses and industries so we can work together for a greater energy future.
“We have all felt the effects of the recent rise in electricity tariffs…It has become clear that long term solutions are required if we want to grow and use energy without bankrupting our treasury or the fear of closing our business doors.”
These solutions include the establishment of an energy task force working along with local businesses to install renewable energy, the promotion of energy efficiency lighting and also conducting energy audits for large and small scale users.
“Building an energy secure future means building public credibility and taking the lead in advancing energy integration and energy access to all our citizens,” said Lake.