Policy and regulation development play a foundational role in the kind of meaningful change the Technical Assistance Programme for Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean (TAPSEC) is seeking to support throughout the region. Before the Caribbean can transition to a future in which all citizens have access to sustainable, reliable and resilient energy supplies, we need solid frameworks for how every stakeholder and organisation will operate.

In recognition of this pressing need, TAPSEC’s policy component focuses on supporting the regional modernisation and implementation of the policies, legislation and regulatory frameworks guiding the development of our renewable energy and energy efficiency capacity. In particular, the Programme is guided by what is meant to be achieved under the CARICOM Energy Policy (CEP), the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) and various national energy policies and strategies of individual Caribbean states.

TAPSEC’s efforts in this arena are led by Sparkle Prentice, Senior Policy, Regulations and Resilience Advisor with responsibility for interventions on both the national and regional scale. Holding a Master of Engineering degree in Sustainable Energy, Prentice leverages her experience in electricity and fuel sector regulation, oversight and policy development to help create an environment that advances renewable energy and energy efficiency. Her passion for enabling the region to meet its fullest potential is evident in her work, which aims to change the paradigm for how we look at and engage with energy at the individual, national and regional levels.

At the topmost level stands the Regional Energy Efficiency Strategy and Action Plan, which Prentice highlights as the flagship project of TAPSEC’s policy pillar. Also known as the REES and REEAP, this project emerged out of an awareness of the need to develop regional energy efficiency by creating first a strategy and then an action plan to serve as a guide for regional and national organisations to upscale energy efficiency. In addition to the regional strategy, 15 individual country strategies were developed for each CARICOM Member State based on a massive data collection exercise. These strategies, or country potentials, were then used to evaluate possible energy efficiency savings based on various scenarios through the year 2035. Prentice sees the REES and REEAP as one of the most impactful projects in her portfolio because it provides a foundation upon which countries can build their national energy policies, strategies and programmes, providing critical guidance years into the future.

One such energy efficiency programme in Prentice’s portfolio is on track to create a major shift in the traditional relationship between regional energy utilities and their customers: the Integrated Utility Service (IUS) pilot programme. This project aims to promote sustainable energy use by closing the gap between customers who may not be able to afford energy efficient technology and utility companies seeking to encourage more efficient energy use among their customers. It does this through the creation of utility-based energy service companies. These companies offer energy efficiency solutions directly to their customers, providing upfront financing and allowing customers to benefit from immediate reductions in their electricity use and costs. Customers then pay for the solutions over time through their electricity bills.

Coming out of a 2017 scoping assessment, the IUS model was first piloted in Barbados, where it was subsequently integrated into the nation’s Electricity Rate Structure. The programme is now currently being piloted Belize, Guyana and Jamaica, with each country’s model tailored to their customers’ particular needs. In each case, customers are now able to benefit from access to technology that will lower their energy costs and their nations are benefiting from lower carbon emissions and reduced strain on energy grids.

On the utility side of things, Prentice points out that the modernisation of the benchmarking studies produced by the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC) is poised to revolutionise the way regulators can utilise energy performance data. The CARILEC studies are crucial to the region’s power sectors in that they analyse the performance of utility companies across the region based on the set key performance indicators (KPIs) by which they all operate. The modernisation exercise focused on updating the study’s KPIs to reflect current circumstances and available renewable energy resources as well as automating the studies and creating a platform making the data easily accessible for the relevant organisations. Following on the technical sessions with CARILEC members to update the KPIs, TAPSEC supported the scoping for the benchmarking platform, which is currently under development.

A new digital platform placing this data at the fingertips of utilities and regulators is key to the ongoing creation of modern benchmarks and updated regulations that are relevant to the changing energy landscape. The data will also provide a strong foundation for the updated energy policies and plans made by governments and regional institutions like the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE).

In the arena of alternative transport, the Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy (REVS) framework focuses on boosting regional electric vehicle uptake with the aim of moving the region’s transportation systems towards energy sustainability and efficiency. Based on findings coming out of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Regional Electric Vehicle Working Group and further developed by CCREEE, the REVS framework includes application examples illustrating its execution in four different types of CARICOM infrastructure and one case study based on Barbados, which has the region’s highest EV uptake. Prentice’s goal was to support the creation of a framework from which any CARICOM country might be able to implement the strategy using the example of the most applicable nation, from large islands like Jamaica, to continental nations like Belize, OECS islands like St. Lucia or smaller islands like Montserrat.

The CARICOM Policy and Regulations Help Desk is one of the projects Prentice is most excited about overseeing. TAPSEC partnered with the CARICOM Secretariat for this first-of-its-kind facility, which provides CARICOM Member States with technical assistance in the creation and maintenance of sustainable energy policies and regulations. Launched in 2020, the Help Desk operates on the basis of a robust framework and calls on an existing pool of technical consultants to serve the needs of ministries and regulators seeking support in the development, modernisation or implementation of energy policies, legislation, regulations and programmes. Nine projects were initiated through the Help Desk in its first iteration, one of which was the aforementioned Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy. Most exciting for Prentice is the prospect of the Help Desk’s framework being institutionalised within CARICOM Energy or the CCREEE to provide Member States with continued access to the resource.

Taken together, the various policy initiatives under Sparkle Prentice’s leadership reveal a concerted effort to strengthen regional policy and regulatory frameworks in order to create an environment that embraces and advances renewable energy and energy efficiency. This, in turn, feeds into TAPSEC’s overall aim of helping the region to meet the goals outlined by the CARICOM Energy Policy, which is the path by which we will reach our sustainable and resilient future. Sound policy and regulatory frameworks are therefore critical elements of the map that will get us there.