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Caricom looking at renewable


CARICOM energy ministers meeting last Friday in Port-of-Spain, under the aegis of Caricom’s Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) agreed upon a draft regional energy policy which will be referred to Caricom Heads of Government who will meet in summit in Port-of-Spain from July 4 to 6, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.


While no firm details were outlined at the end of the meeting, it seemed apparent that Caricom energy ministers reached a consensus that Caricom needs to put a greater emphasis on developing sustainable sources of renewable energy alongside traditional energy resources of crude oil and natural gas, which only a few Caricom countries are blessed with.


Addressing a news conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port-of-Spain at the conclusion of the meeting, Dominica Energy Minister Rayburn Blackmore said: “What has taken place here today is historic.. Historic from the standpoint that it is 40 years since we had the last oil crisis in the world.” Blackmore further observed that while countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and Barbados are blessed with oil and natural gas, most Caricom states do not have these assets. However he noted the region is blessed with energy resources in the form of “sun (solar), wind, hydro and geo-thermal” “So we have to, in a creative way, find ways to develop those potential in our energy resources. Today we have been able to finalise a document and approve. The next level is to take it to the heads for finalisation but I think it is a step in the right direction and for that we must be commended.”


Noting the policy is a draft one and must be approved by Caricom leaders, Blackmore said: “ The Caricom energy policy does not prevent any one Member State from having its own individual policy. What we have now is a policy document in draft form that is responsive to the needs of all Member States.” He identified energy security and pricing as some of the issues listed in the policy.


Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine endorsed Blackmore’s views. “With the exception of TT and Suriname and to a very lesser extent Barbados, Belize. With our abundance of wind and solar energy in the region, renewable energy is a natural direction for the Caribbean to progress in,” he said. Ramnarine said he was pleased that “steps were taken today to set targets and timelines were set as to when those targets need to be agreed to for the roll out of solar, wind and interestingly hydro-electrical power specifically in Guyana.” “ I saw a target of 90 percent hydro-electric power for Guyana by the year 2022,” he added.


Jamaican Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell also welcomed the outcome of the meeting. “The matter of energy is one that has prevented,I think our integration movement from advancing as quickly as it ought to,” Paulwell stated. “I think today is historic because we have been able after 12 years of attempting to come away with one policy for the region and it’s been done here in TT,” he said. “I think we have set the stage for a sustained focus now on solving our energy problems,” Paulwell added.


Noting the last global oil crisis occurred 40 years ago, Paulwell said: “We as a region have not been able to resolve that until we have cheaper sources of energy,we are not going to get our region to advance as quickly as it ought to.This policy is seeking to do just that.” Ramnarine observed the last time Caricom energy ministers held a similar forum was in November 2000. “The meeting comes against the backdrop of very high energy prices internationally. It is a concern today and it was a concern 30 years ago when the price of oil was US$28.75 per barrel. It’s a lot higher today than it was back then,” he said. Ramnarine also disclosed that Government is seeking to broaden an initiative which was contemplated by its PNM predecessor to export LNG but expand it to become involved in other aspects of the energy value chain in Jamaica.


Recalling talks between former prime ministers Patrick Manning and PJ Patterson to export LNG from TT to Jamaica for use in electricity generation, Ramnarine said Government is exploring the possibility to go beyond merely supplying LNG to Jamaica and looking at other joint investment opportunities.


He identified investment in a floating regasification unit as one such opportunity which both governments are exploring. Ramnarine hinted at possible TT-Jamaica collaboration in the construction of a new electrical power plant in Jamaica which is similar to the TGU plant in La Brea. Paulwell said the issue of pricing of the LNG exports from TT to Jamaica has not yet been determined.


Expressing the hope that an agreement could be worked out in two weeks time, Paulwell said talks are at “a sensitive stage” at this time. “I prefer to negotiate behind closed doors,” he stated. “These discussions are going to continue. There is a great sense of urgency that they be concluded in a matter of weeks,” Paulwell added.


On the issue of supplying LNG to Jamaica, Ramnarine said this may not come exclusively from the National Gas Corporation but these details also still need to be worked out. Ramnarine also said the development of a common energy policy for Caricom should not affect the way in which TT energy service companies operate in the region. Blackmore reiterated that the creation of this policy was important given continuing volatility in the Middle East, where the majority of global energy resources are based.


Belize Energy Minister Joy Grant said the issue of energy was one for humanity and Belize was happy that the draft energy policy was created. She explained this now sets the outer boundaries for the region in terms of energy security and now Caricom countries have a framework to operate within. COTED officials said the policy took note of the fact that many Caricom countries have signed on to Venezuela’s PetroCaribe initiative but did not see this affecting the policy as PetroCaribe is really a series of bilateral agreements between states. They also did not expect any balance of payment issues pertaining to PetroCaribe given the ongoing health challenges of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.



Category/ies:Regional News.
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