Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine has cited a need for private sector partnership and changes to be made to Grenada’s legislative and regulatory environment for the country to effectively increase its renewable energy penetration.
Antoine, who is the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), made the remarks on the heels of the 2017 launch of the 2nd annual CARICOM Energy Month (CEM) initiative on November 1, under the theme: “Re-Thinking Energy Shaping a Resilient Community”.
Addressing the 29th Annual GCIC Business Awards held at the Spice Basket on October 28, under the theme: “Transforming the ECCU together, the Grenada contribution,” the Grenadian-born ECCB Governor, expressed the view that Grenada is “lagging behind” in achieving sustainable renewable energy.
He pointed out that Aruba, which is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Southern Caribbean, is one country that is well on the way towards achieving its goal to have 100% renewable energy dispersion by 2020.
“I am calling Grenada out – we have to step up our renewable energy penetration,” Antoine told the gathering.
Stating that the island is blessed with the sun most of the year, he said “that’s what we have, that’s our inheritance (and) we have to leverage it for our development folks and it cannot take us as long as it is taking us to get this done”.
“We are going to save foreign exchange (and) lower the cost of business…and we are going to be able to see a lot more in terms of our economic development were we to reduce the cost of energy in this country”, said Antoine.
CARICOM’s Energy Programme Manager, Dr. Devon Gardner has highlighted the “vicious cycle” of severe climate impacts, high indebtedness and high fossil fuel import bills faced by member countries.
Speaking at a ceremony held on the French speaking nation of Haiti at the Quiskeya University in Port-au-Prince, Dr. Gardner pointed to the impact of ferocious hurricanes on the energy sectors of CARICOM Member States and Associate Members.
He stressed that Member States should place strategic focus on energy, climate, and disaster risk management.
“The recent spate of hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria, which impacted the Caribbean between August and September, has reshaped this year’s Energy Month agenda,” he said.
“Concomitant with these extreme weather events was the extensive damage to the electric grids and other critical infrastructure within the countries, which impacted the availability of modern energy access, albeit temporarily, to citizens in Dominica, the British Virgin Islands, The Bahamas, and other territories”, he added.
Dr. Gardner went on: “This is one example of how our vulnerability to climate and disaster can retard advances that are made toward attainment of the global SDG’s: Goal 7 is related to an “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
He noted that prior to the passage of hurricane Maria, Dominica, in particular was in the process of reaching financial closure for the construction of a geothermal plant, which would have reduced its dependency on fossil-based fuel by 50%.
Dr. Gardner said that as the affected island seeks to build back better, the rallying call for resilient reconstruction in hurricane hit countries in CARICOM will require “significant attention to be placed on the vulnerabilities of our islands.”
“Our future lies in the reduction of future risk from extreme weather impacts, which requires adapting our economic, social and environmental systems to changes that are already unavoidable.
“A strategic focus on energy, climate and disaster risk as the central plank within our respective development models is needed, such that the efficient and cost-effective production, delivery and use of renewable energy decouple our development from expensive fossil fuel use.
“In doing so, the energy system design can present an opportunity for enhancing the ability of our sectors (economic and social), to strategically address climate and disaster risks.”
The importance of renewable energy was also highlighted by Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados, Cleviston Haynes, who said that Barbados’ international foreign reserve has fallen to 8.6 weeks of import cover at the end of September, which is below the international benchmark of 12 weeks.
In presenting a review of the economic performance of Barbados for the first nine months of the year, Haynes announced that the authorities had started taking steps to dampen the demand for foreign currency but new ways are still needed to increase the reserve supply.
“What we would want to see going forward is for the alternative energy sector to become a more dominant influence on our energy sector”, he said.
“The reason for that is sort of two-fold,” Haynes said, while adding, “We have seen growth in terms of the companies that are getting involved in alternative energy but, equally critical is that over time we expect that this will help to dampen the demand (for) the fuel imports which is a large part of our foreign exchange at this point in time.”