The success of the regional sustainable energy transition depends on more than the availability of renewable energy resources and energy-efficient technology. It requires more than experts ready and able to lead the charge. While these things are, of course, critical to the Caribbean’s effort to shift toward a low-carbon, sustainable and resilient pathway, they are not enough to get us there. To be successful, the region must believe in its ability to develop and implement the solutions necessary to reach sustainability. This faith is what will guide us to our ultimate goal: a future in which all CARICOM citizens have access to modern, clean and reliable energy supplies at affordable and stable prices.
An understanding of the importance of this confidence forms the foundation of TAPSEC’s approach to its support for the regional sustainable energy transition. It also informs the Programme’s collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Every pillar and project of TAPSEC was developed with input from the national and regional institutions that best understand the Caribbean’s needs. Therefore, as a member of the Programme’s Technical Advisory Committee, the CDB was heavily involved in guiding the creation of the initiatives that would comprise TAPSEC’s extensive project portfolio. Across the arenas of policy, capacity development and finance, more than 70 projects were developed to expedite and complement existing regional efforts while targeting some of the challenges impeding the transition.
Naturally, this aligns strongly with the CDB’s mission, which is to reduce poverty and transform lives through sustainable, resilient and inclusive development. The bank focuses on a range of sectors — including water, sanitation, transportation, education and, of course, energy — and it operates with an eye toward resilience within five dimensions: economic, social, environmental, financial and institutional. The aim is to be responsive to the Caribbean’s development needs so as to provide borrowing members with the resources they require. As a relatively small institution with 19 borrowing members across the region and an additional nine non-borrowing members across the globe, the CDB has had to be selective in how it offers its support, leveraging partnerships with other regional institutions — such as the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) — and partnerships with programmes such as TAPSEC to expand its reach.
Sustainable energy development is fundamental to the CDB’s mission, which is why the institution approaches its involvement in the sector in accordance with two mantras: “There is no sustainable development without sustainable energy” and “The climate change challenge is largely an energy challenge”. With these in mind, the bank has aimed to help tackle the issue of regional energy security through renewable energy. The plan is to wean the region off of its dependency on foreign fossil fuels, which leaves us vulnerable to fluctuating prices as well as harsh environmental impacts.
According to Joseph Williams, Coordinator at the CDB’s Sustainable Energy Unit, the bank sees TAPSEC as “a complementary intervention to enhance some of the efforts on the ground in areas that were particularly challenging”. He highlights the CARICOM Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code (CREEBC), CARICOM Energy Policy & Regulations Help Desk and the Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy (REVS) as three particularly impactful initiatives coming out of the Programme. The CDB intends to incorporate the outputs of each of these TAPSEC interventions (in addition to many others) going forward to inform internal policy, guide regional policy and develop technical assistance or investment projects.
Discussing the collaboration with TAPSEC at both the formative and execution stages, Mr. Williams describes the Programme’s efforts as helpful to the CDB’s goal of enhancing the progress towards the regional sustainable energy transformation: “it makes sense for us to be in partnership with, supportive of and collaborate with the objectives of the TAPSEC project because it’s about enhancing our ability to get the transition moving”. As to the experience of the collaboration itself, he praises the Programme’s effective communication and flexibility in response to challenges that arose during execution. Mr. Williams also highlighted the TAPSEC team’s willingness to participate in other projects within the CDB’s portfolio, which, he says, “enhanced collaboration generally”.
Overall, he says, “TAPSEC has helped to move the needle”, to move the region, in the direction it needs to go. With the benefit of this support, the region is fully-equipped and eminently capable of doing what’s necessary to fundamentally change its energy systems in ways that will allow it to produce, transmit, distribute and use clean energy in a way that will benefit every CARICOM citizen and fuel regional sustainable development.