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Advance Renewable Energy Drive

Energy Ministers from across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting in Georgetown on Thursday were challenged to advance the Region’s renewable energy drive and leverage energy sector advantages in the face of the recent surge in oil prices.

The challenges were made to the Ministers, meeting for the first time in more than two decades, by Acting CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite at the Opening Ceremony of the Thirty-Fifth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) Energy at the CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown.

Against the background of the domino effect of the spike in oil prices occasioned by the continuing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the reported leaks from the Japan nuclear power plants following the earthquake there early in March, Ms Applewhaite said that it appeared that renewable energy would have to play an even more important role than originally contemplated.

She outlined the steps being taken by Member States to develop renewable energy resources and added that the CARICOM Secretariat had launched a `Greening Initiative’ to seek to improve efficiency through behaviour change, energy efficiency retrofits, as well as possible renewable energy generation, among other objectives.

Pointing out that the Community no longer had the luxury of “just tinkering”, the Acting Secretary-General urged the Meeting to find ways to develop concrete and effective strategies to change the landscape towards a “diversified energy mix, significantly improving efficiency of use and increasing the contribution from renewable energy”.

“I challenge us to see how we can leverage the energy sector advantages, both fossil and renewable, to advance our development, through such approaches as cross border integration of energy systems, encouraging participation in downstream energy sector industries and implementation of regional strategies to support capacity development in the sector,” she said.

The Acting Secretary-General said the Meeting was timely in view of the continuing increases in the prices of oil which had significant economic implications for Member States of CARICOM. She pointed out that the World Bank had reported that during the period of the record oil price movement between 2007 to 2008, for every $10 upward movement in the price of oil, the worst hit CARICOM Member States experienced a negative impact of 1.5% of GDP to 2.3% of GDP. Those figures meant that every $4.30 increase in the price of oil could reduce GDP in CARICOM countries by up to one percentage point.

The cost and supply of energy, Ambassador Applewhaite said, were the most urgent items on the global economic agenda and therefore, on the agenda also of CARICOM. She explained that movements in oil prices were exacerbating the hike in food prices through increased fertilizer, irrigation and transportation costs.

“…even as we meet today, the impact of the earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants in Japan and the reported leaks of radioactive gases may be causing a rethink of world energy policy,” Amb. Applewhaite said.

The Acting Secretary-General, in referring to the Draft CARICOM Energy Policy, which the Ministers are considering at the meeting, said: “It is envisioned that this Policy will balance carefully the interest of all Member States to ensure the overall good of all. As you are aware, the advancing of the CARICOM Energy Policy towards finalization is a significant agenda item for this Meeting … it is hoped that after this Meeting a clear path can be established for expedited finalization of this policy.”

Category/ies:Regional News.
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