The Eighth Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF 8) opened in Kingston, Jamaica, on November 7, with energy stakeholders and policymakers reiterating their commitment to a just transition that significantly reduces carbon emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels.
Under the theme “Powering Transport”, CSEF 8, the three-day flagship event of CARICOM Energy Month 2023, will focus on electrifying the Caribbean, electrifying the transport sector, decarbonising difficult-to-electrify segments of the transport sector and integrating electric vehicles into power distribution networks.
CSEF 8 is being hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), and the Jamaica Electric Vehicle Association (JEVA) with support from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Delivering the keynote address during the opening session at AC Hotel, Managing Director of Innovative Energy Company Limited, Mr. Nigel Davy was adamant that CARICOM has the potential to substantially wean itself from petroleum fuels. He stressed that regional governments must be deliberate in setting lofty, yet achievable renewable energy goals, and follow up with enabling policies that ensure that these goals are achieved.
“Renewable energy is no longer considered frontier technology. It is now deemed mainstream, and developing economies like ours should move with alacrity to deploy it at a rapid, but sustainable pace. The local and regional private sectors should invest in renewable energy with vigour, and conviction,” he said, also noting that governments and other stakeholders should look at other creative ways to make electric vehicles more affordable and attractive for various citizens.
Assistant Secretary-General of Economic Integration, Innovation & Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr. Joseph Cox emphasized that the transition to electric vehicles is not just a trend but a crucial step toward a more sustainable, clean, and prosperous future for our Region. He admitted that the expectation that this transition would occur seamlessly along a simple adoption curve was always unrealistic.
Mr. Cox said that the region is projected to move from 19% electrification currently to 51% electrification by 2050, however noted that history thus far has illustrated that renewable energy progress in the Region has been organic and not accelerated.
“This therefore demands new approaches,” the Assistant Secretary-General insisted, further pointing to the need for legislative reviews, grid modernization interventions, joint procurement practices and the advent of nearshoring to treat with supply chain disruptions and renegotiations of electric distribution licences where appropriate.
Chairman of the Executive Board of CCREEE, Dr. James Fletcher underscored the need for CCREEE in the region. However, he said “there is need to reconceptualize what is that space that CCREEE should be occupying in that regional energy ecosystem”.
Dr. Fletcher further impressed on the Caribbean Community to embrace Energy Champions. “…. I’m looking at some of the ministers in the room, we need you to be energy champions. We need you to take this energy sector and in your own domestic jurisdictions, ensure that the legislation that will remove these monopolistic, antiquated electricity supply acts is repealed and that we have modern energy legislation, a suite of legislation”.
While some progress has been made, Director of Projects at CDB, Mrs. Therese Turner-Jones expressed that penetration of renewable energy has been slower than expected in many countries.
“We are moving too slowly and there’s a lot to do…It is crucial that this region has access to less expensive electricity because it’s a feature in every single part of our daily lives; it affects the extent to which the region is competitive or not, and it’s really holding us back.”
Ms. Turner-Jones highlighted the work being done by CDB to help the Caribbean Community address these issues. However, she further stressed the importance of overcoming barriers, “including the fact that there’s regulatory arbitrage happening in this region, among the region, among ourselves. We haven’t figure out how to work together, to put together a common set of regulations that will really drive this sector”.
Also addressing the opening session, Regional Manager for the Caribbean at the Development Bank of Latin America and the Caribbean (CAF) Dr. Stacy Richards-Kennedy reminded delegates that promoting electrification projects in the transportation sector is an important part of CAFs efforts to support the energy transition. She revealed that CAF will participate alongside the Green Climate Fund in an electric mobility and low carbon transportation program called E-motion, which involves multiple countries across Latin America and seeks to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles in the wider region.
General Manager, Country Department Caribbean Group, and Country Representative in Jamaica, IDB, Mr. Anton Edmunds further assured CSEF 8 of IDB’s commitment to working closely with governments, regional organizations and other stakeholders to advance a just energy transition by mobilizing technical resources, knowledge sharing and financing.