Sustainable energy is crucial to regional development. This has only become clearer as we work to recover from the effects of the ongoing pandemic. A future in which the Caribbean region is no longer reliant on imported fossil fuels, free from the uncertainties of unpredictable oil prices and protected from the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use will be a bright one indeed.
While the diversification of our energy resources is a major part of the shift to a sustainable energy future, it’s equally critical to ensure that our energy sectors are capable of withstanding the challenges ahead. Side-by-side with TAPSEC’s drive to support this transition is the Climate Resilient and Sustainable Energy Supply (Cli-RES) project, the other part of the programme co-financed by the European Union and German government, and it is focused on strengthening the resilience of the region’s power sector.
Guided by the CARICOM Energy Policy (CEP), the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) and other national policies, Cli-RES collaborates with the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE). The aim is to enhance the reliability of existing energy systems to the extent that they can withstand, respond and adapt to external shocks through the integration of sound planning and diversified energy resources. The ultimate goal is to encourage clean economic growth and reduce the dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels.
Bernd Gabers, Cli-RES , has seen this approach work before, in his home country of Denmark. He was part of the project in 1997 when the island of Samsø won a national competition to become the world’s first renewable energy island, transitioning to 100% energy self-sufficiency in just 10 years. To achieve this admirable goal, the people of Samsø came together to finance the majority of the project themselves. By 2007, the island was powered by a combination of wind turbines, biomass plants and solar panels. They also invested in household energy efficiency and electric vehicles, which make up 10% of all vehicles on the island of about 4,000 residents. The island’s next goals are to re-power their aging wind turbines and phase out the remaining fossil fuels used for energy and transportation to become completely carbon free by 2030.
As impressive as this all sounds, Bernd is the first to admit that it wasn’t an easy journey for Samsø and the island’s dynamics differ quite a bit from CARICOM, which comprises 15 member states and five associate members. This is where Cli-RES comes in, providing critical support to our region’s efforts to build our climate-resilient sustainable energy future. Foundational to this push is the robust planning and preparation involved in creating an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan (IRRP).
An IRRP is a long-term roadmap tailor-made for a country’s unique energy needs, resources and climate context. It plans for future electricity demands from the perspective of energy efficiency and generation while also preparing for external threats due to extreme weather events, equipment failure and unpredictable loads.
The planning process is currently underway in four countries: Belize, St. Kitts & Nevis, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago. With the support of Cli-RES, CCREEE is working closely with the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), which is doing vulnerability assessments, and consultants, who are developing grid modelling and capacity-building plans for each country. CCREEE will then compile the final IRRP reports to be presented to the national stakeholders as a means of guiding the resilient and sustainable development of their energy sectors. Jamaica is expected to join the IRRP exercise soon and it will be gradually rolled out to the wider CARICOM region thereafter.
Asked to name an aspect of the Cli-RES project which he’s found particularly enjoyable so far, Bernd highlights the technical support it offers to CARICOM member states. It was his goal before he assumed the role and he’s happy to be involved in the regional push to join Samsø on the path to a sustainable future. In particular, he’s looking forward to looking back in a few years and seeing all the progress we’ve made as we begin putting our new IRRPs into use.