Integrated Resource and Resilience Planning to Strengthen Caribbean Energy Sector and Boost Climate Resilience

In the past decade, Caribbean countries have endured increasingly abnormal hydro-meteorological phenomena which have decimated communities and local industries, collapsed energy infrastructure, ravaged regional budgets and laid bare the low resilience of Caribbean energy systems to climate change.

As a solution to these challenges which continue to affect the social and economic progress of CARICOM member states, the GIZ, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ),  and in collaboration with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, is implementing the “Climate Resilient and Sustainable Energy Supply” (Cli-RES) project. 

With a focus on strengthening the resilience of the Caribbean’s power sector, diversifying the region’s energy supply and ensuring reliable and affordable power delivery, Cli-RES, through a financing agreement with the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), is supporting the development of country specific Integrated Resource Resilience Plans (IRRPs) in partnership with the governments of Belize, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and St. Lucia.

IRRPs are strategic plans designed to map a country’s future energy demand, identify reliable sources of power generation, minimize negative impacts on the environment and enhance the resilience of power systems to hazards and risks, while minimizing costs to consumers. 

Through the Cli-RES supported IRRP project which kicked off in May 2020, energy actors (policymakers, planners, and system operators) in the aforementioned countries will be equipped with the capacity and resources to safeguard current power distribution systems and plan for and invest in the improved resilience of the power sector in their countries. Through resilience planning interventions, actors will be well equipped to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to the threats and potential faults on the power distribution system and devise strategies to mitigate them.

During the 18-month implementation period, as a strategic partner in the IRRP project, the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) will execute climate, vulnerability, and hazard assessments, including the development of vulnerability maps for each member state undertaking the IRRP process.

In a recently held interview in July 2020, Dr Devon Gardner, Programme Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat’s Energy Unit, noted that the IRRP framework is a departure from the decade-old focus on the energy transition through a climate mitigation lens by supporting the identification of opportunities for enhancing the resilience of the electricity sector to climate change impacts while advancing Caribbean countries in the direction of ‘low-carbon’ power systems. 

Commenting on what he called the “triple threat” adversely affecting Caribbean countries, Dr Gardner flagged severe climate impacts, high indebtedness, and high fossil fuel import bills. He went on to note that the “consequence is that the high levels of indebtedness faced by our countries and the periodic loss of significant portions of national Gross Domestic Product to disasters, limit the ability of our governments to make the investments that are necessary to transform the energy portfolios of the islands and to invest in resilience.” 

The power sector of a country serves as the focal point to its economic and social development and growth. Thus, according to Bernd Gabers, Cli-RES’s Advisor, the IRRPs will ensure selected member states are equipped with stable energy supplies for the next 25 years, thereby driving resilience and unlocking opportunities for the prosperity of its citizens.

As regional partners work towards a sustainable, climate resilient future for the Caribbean, this collaboration will effectively restructure the current energy systems and significantly improve the energy security of the respective countries; build and maintain a robust power generation system that can withstand, respond and adapt to external fluctuations improve system reliability and diversify their resource mix while at the same time promoting clean economic growth and lessening dependence on costly, imported petroleum fuels.

On September 30, 2020, the 82nd Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) – Energy, endorsed IRRPs as the preferred method for electricity sector planning throughout CARICOM. All Member States will aim to develop IRRPs by 2023, with the aspiration of shifting energy systems from traditional to modern, smart, resilient and sustainable designs.