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Message from Amb. Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General, Caribbean Community for CARICOM Energy Week 2011

It gives me much pleasure to be a part of the inaugural Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Week.  Following endorsement by CARICOM Energy Ministers earlier this year, CARICOM Energy week is being staged as a chain of National Energy Weeks being held concurrently during the period 6-12 November 2011.  The overall objective is to highlight and raise awareness about energy sector development issues in CARICOM Member States and generate solutions, where appropriate.  The general theme which has evolved is that of creating a secure, clean, low carbon and sustainable energy future. The activities are being co-ordinated by the CARICOM Secretariat through its Energy Programme with support from the European Union.

Energy is such a basic part of our lives that we often take it for granted.  Yet, without it, we could not enjoy the services which define our modern way of life, such as convenient meal preparation, fast transportation, piped water supply, air-conditioned environment, communication, entertainment and other conveniences.  Further, modern production systems, commercial and social services would not be possible.  In short, the availability of a modern and reliable energy supply is a necessary ingredient for economic and social development, particularly as it fuels the information and communication technologies (ICT) which are at the heart of these services.

In CARICOM, the energy agenda issues vary, ranging from i) inadequate energy security including affordability and reliability of supplies among most countries which are net energy importers, to  ii) concerns about energy sustainability in all territories; and iii) lack of access to modern forms of energy which is a major issue for some of our Member States. In almost all CARICOM countries, the delivery of the energy services is generally expensive. All countries must therefore seek to become better stewards of their existing energy resources while seeking to explore their resource potential to increase energy security and reduce vulnerability to external shocks.

Throughout the Community, the size of the national fuel bill is of major concern and while National Governments must lead the process of fully developing the resources and increasing efficiency through appropriate policies, it is critical that the citizens be fully engaged for effectively achieving these goals.  Energy Week provides a good opportunity for bringing everyone together around relevant National and Regional energy sector development issues.

Since it is quite clear that the use of Petroleum based energy and Natural Gas will be with us for a long time into the future, those countries that are energy import dependent will remain vulnerable to variances in world energy prices.  Many countries of the Region are at the high end of electricity tariffs globally, a reality which undermines their economic competitiveness.

CARICOM countries are all pursuing renewable energy options which include solar electricity, solar thermal, hydropower, wind-power, geothermal, bio-energy and marine energy.  However, in order for renewable energy to significantly advance, it is necessary to reform the structure of the electricity markets in many Member States to allow for small generators and independent power providers to participate and generate into the grid.

Renewable energy has an important role for the Region’s energy and climate change agendas.  This is reflected in the decision of the CARICOM Heads of Government at their Retreat in May 2011, to include renewable energy development among the areas for Regional priority action.  This decision, will be pursued within the framework of the CARICOM Energy Policy which is now being finalized, after much delay.  Renewable energy will form an important platform for significantly transforming the Region’s energy sector.

The link between the climate change and energy sectors is well known.  It is also widely felt that the global fight against the climate change challenge will lead to the establishment of a world market price for carbon dioxide emissions. This will form another key incentive for countries to diversify their energy supply mix through greater use of renewables and other low carbon alternatives.

CARICOM countries will need to be innovative, while working collectively to utilize resources more efficiently and effectively. In fact, the energy sector is one of the sectors through which the process of integration in CARICOM can be deepened.  There are tremendous opportunities for cooperation among countries ranging from capacity building to awareness building, research and development to possible integration of energy production systems.

The CARICOM Secretariat extends sincere thanks to the European Union for the financial support provided for Energy Week activities in Member States through both the Caribbean Renewable Energy Capacity Support (CRECS) Project, as well as the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Programme (CSEP) being implemented by OAS.

It is my hope that during Energy Week, key National and Regional energy sector issues will be highlighted and discussed towards arriving at a better understanding of the critical actions needed in the form of policies, strategies and action plans to advance the development of the sector across the Region.  It is also my hope that the youth, adults, students, professionals, public sector, private sector, NGO’s and civil society will all be engaged and gain a greater appreciation of their role in contributing towards a brighter energy future for the Region.  Energy Week is a perfect platform for building the needed awareness in this regard.

I wish for all a very fruitful and productive Energy Week celebration.

Category/ies:Regional News, Regional Speeches.
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