With the launch of the CARICOM Energy Policy & Regulations Help Desk, agencies across the Caribbean are confident in the support it will provide in advancing the region’s transition to renewable energy resources in the face of supply and economic challenges with imported fossil fuels.
The Help Desk is an intervention under the policy component of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) funded Technical Assistance Programme for Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean (TAPSEC), implemented by the GIZ in collaboration with CARICOM Secretariat and the Ministry of Energy and Mines in the Dominican Republic.
Although the Caribbean has extensive access to renewable energy resources, these resources are underutilized. Instead, CARICOM member states have maintained a high dependence on imported fossil fuels. This was underscored by CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Joseph Cox of the Directorate of Trade and Economic Integration during the virtual launch of the Help Desk on July 29.
“Our countries have historically been faced with energy price and supply volatility and energy insecurity stemming from an overreliance on imported petroleum and petroleum products which provides almost 90% of our energy service needs,” ASG Cox noted.
A heavy reliance on imported fuels has created difficult conditions for Caribbean countries that are greatly impacted by climate change including hurricanes. “Even as we meet today, a number of our countries are threatened by Tropical Storm Isaias—the 9th named storm already of the 2020 hurricane season,” ASG COX continued.
The Help Desk aims to provide CARICOM member states with the required technical assistance to develop an enabling environment to accelerate the Caribbean’s sustainable energy transition. The Help Desk will focus primarily on providing technical assistance services for (i) the modernisation of energy policies and legislation as well as the implementation of actions/programmes consistent with national policy objectives and; (ii) the review or modernisation of regulatory frameworks, regulatory support and electric utility services.
Eligible institutions can access policy support in key areas such as energy efficiency applications; renewable energy technologies; climate resilient energy systems and energy resilience; electric mobility and sustainable energy use in transport; and grid modernisation including RE integration to name a few.
Regulatory and utility-specific assistance, on the other hand, can be sought to advance services as mentioned above, as well as, power purchase agreements and negotiations; tariff reviews, tariff setting and changing rate structures; service studies; rate variation applications; rate adjustment mechanisms; modernisation of rate variation procedures and regulations; and the development of grid codes and grid modelling.
Institutions eligible to request support include government ministries responsible for energy; regulatory agencies in the energy sector; electric utility companies; regional universities in CARICOM member states; national agencies/institutions across CARICOM member states with an energy mandate; and civil society organisations across CARICOM.
Recognising that the Caribbean remains vulnerable to climate change including rising sea levels and hurricanes, ASG Cox remarked that the region’s energy transition requires large capital mobilisation from CARICOM member states totalling US$20billion, with US$4billion in some countries.
While acknowledging that some Caribbean countries are now leaders in renewable energy globally as the region has immense renewable energy potential, ASG Cox asserted that energy is no longer an economic issue alone but part of long-term sustainable development and resilience strategizing as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and foreign exchange committed for energy imports could be re-directed to climate change and sustainable development interventions.
Plugging the importance of the Help Desk at its launch, Dr Devon Gardner, Programme Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Energy Unit, acknowledged this as the beginning for which great action is needed as all must put shoulders to the wheel and deliver to member states, institutions and other organisations what the Help Desk is intended to do.
With Integrated Resource and Resilience Planning (IRRP) work ongoing, Dr Gardner noted, this is likely to provide guidance on what investment pipelines will be required within the countries as well as what can be supported within the policy and regulatory environment.
The CARICOM Energy Unit manager added, that COVID19 has shown that disruptions in the energy sector can occur from any side. “We have to figure out how we can manage and maintain our systems in an efficient and economically-viable way even when we have those disruptions on the demand side. We must now begin to think about adaptability and flexibility within our system designs that allow us to meet the requirements of our population even when the supply-side, delivery-side, or demand-side is disrupted regardless of what the source of that disruption is.”
In closing remarks, Simon Zellner, Programme Lead for the Climate Resilience and Sustainable Energy Supply in the Caribbean (Cli-RES) and the Technical Assistance Programme for Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean (TAPSEC), expressed continued support to regional stakeholders including the CARICOM Secretariat, and urged applicants to submit project applications to the Help Desk and to connect with TAPSEC for additional information on the Help Desk.
During the launch, presentations were made, respectively, on the regional and national potential of the Help Desk by Nadia Mohammed, Project Officer of the CARICOM Secretariat Energy Unit and Mali Barnes, Energy Officer in the Ministry of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation, Transport and Energy of Antigua and Barbuda.
Commendations of the Help Desk were shared by Dr Cletus Bertin, Executive Director of the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation (CARILEC); Kathleen Riviere, Executive Director of the Organisation of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR); and Dr Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).
The launch was moderated by Sparkle Prentice, Senior Policy, Regulations & Resilience Advisor of the TAPSEC, GIZ who spearheaded the actualisation of the Help Desk as the Senior Policy, Regulations and Resilience Advisor at the TAPSEC.
First support under the Help Desk is being provided to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Lucia as well as regionally to develop the Regional Electric Vehicle Strategy (REVS) for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
For further information on the Help Desk, please visit https://tapsec.org/policyhelpdesk/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org