From left to right: Alexis V. George, Barbara Walker, Thomas Scheutzlich, Krishna Desai, Jannik Vaa and Jim Reid during the Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium. (GP)
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THE CARIBBEAN NEEDS to embrace a transition to 100 per cent adoption of renewable energy as if its very life depends on it.
This was the general view from a panel discussion on alternative energy which formed part of the programme on Wednesday of Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium 2014, organised by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and funded by the European Union via the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
Alexis George, project officer with the Government of Dominica’s Geothermal Project Management Unit and president of Caribbean LED Lighting Inc. in Barbados, Jim Reid, contended it was achievable to have an economy based on 100 per cent adoption of alternative energy.
Addressing the session Alternative Energy: The Region’s Transition to Sustainable and Energy Efficient Economies on Wednesday, the final day of the conference at Hilton Barbados Resort, Reid said “We need to think differently and go after change as if our life depends on it.”
George said Government has a transition role to play and has played a significant role in Dominica where geo-thermal energy holds out the best prospect in alternative energy. The transition in Dominica involved liberalisation and changes in legislation to accommodate independent power providers so the state-owned utility no longer holds a monopoly in generation as well as distribution of electricity.
But Reid stressed that the transition could be achieved with a “win-win” where the utility company is financially viable, consumers and businesses benefit from reduced electricity rates and Government continues to earn income from taxes. “Everyone is a winner,” he remarked.
Mike Singh, chief executive officer, Ministry of Trade, Investment Promotion and Private Sector Development and Consumer Protection in Belize, said Belize had already achieved 60 per cent adoption of renewable energy and was aiming for 85 per cent in the next five years. But he saw a challenge with recovering the cost of the “legacy system” (aged plant and network equipment).
Jannik Vaa, head of infrastructure, climate change, disaster risk reduction and tourism with the European Union office based in Barbados, supported the view of achieving a 100 per cent renewable energy economy.
But he said while the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) was engaged in public awareness and promotion of ideas Government should take the lead and push the debate. He cited a lecture by German economist Professor Olaf Hohmeyer in Barbados last weekend in which he made an empirical case for Barbados to establish an economy based on 100 adoption of alternative energy.
“Get the ball rolling,” said Vaa, “Create a sustainable island in the Caribbean as a showcase . . . get the community involved,” he said.
The role of conservation also made the agenda where the Jamaican hotelier, Barbara Walker, co-owner and manager of Hotel Mockingbird Hill demonstrated how gradual persistence pays off, while lawyer Krishna Desai of Myers, Fletcher & Gordon showed how his firm had reduced its energy bill significantly in Jamaica.
The notion that operating costs in the Caribbean prohibited manufacturing was also laid to rest by Jim Reid of Caribbean LED Lighting Inc. Reid, whose firm is based in Barbados, said it was manufacturing LED bulbs cheaper than companies in the United States, thereby saving the country on foreign exchange imports.
Starting with solar water heaters 21 years ago, Hotel Mockingbird Hill has installed solar photovoltaic panels and a solar pump for its pool, resulting in a reduction of energy usage from 6000 KWh to 1500 KWh.
But Thomas Scheutzlich, principal advisor, Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme, noted the absence of large renewable energy projects in the region, which he attributed to the absence of regulations requiring utility companies to back implementation. (PR)