Dr. The Honorable W. Baldwin Spencer
Sustainable Energy in Antigua and Barbuda
Mr Master of Ceremonies
· Ambassador Mr Jean Dormeus, Representative of the Organization of American States in Antigua and Barbuda,
· Ms Carolina Pena, representing the OAS Department of Sustainable Development in Washington DC
· Distinguished Workshop invitees from the public and private sectors
· Members of the media
· Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the Government and People of Antigua and Barbuda, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome each and everyone of you to this very important National Stakeholder Consultation on Sustainable Energy in Antigua and Barbuda.
A particularly warm welcome is extended to those of you who are visiting our country for the first time or for the first in a long time. You should note that you have landed in a place that has an established reputation as “a little bit of paradise”.
In that context, I sincerely hope that, in addition to devoting due care and attention to the important and serious work that is on your agenda for today, you will reserve some time to discover the uniqueness of Antigua and Barbuda.
Today’s workshop forms an important part of the efforts by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, spearheaded through the Prime Ministers Office, to advance the transition towards a more sustainable energy future for Antigua and Barbuda.
The facts could not be more overwhelming for moving us in this direction. The latest available information from the International Energy Agency shows that the price of crude oil has consistently remained over US100.00 per barrel since the middle of 2012. These unsustainably high prices have existed even in the midst of an unprecedented global economic recession: a period when economists would have expected to see some relief in oil prices.
We can expect that continuing growth in demand for petroleum from emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa will continue to spur global demand for the Earth’s finite and costly fossil fuel resources.
The future projections for global oil prices are therefore not encouraging for small import-dependent island States like Antigua and Barbuda, and this means that we must work together at all levels to adopt new paradigms for the sustainable use and development of our energy resources.
Additionally, literally every day we learn of new information pointing to the adverse effects of fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate and environment.
Our small countries, already beset with other large scale developmental challenges, are recognized as among the countries in the world most vulnerable to negative impacts of on-going changes in the global climate.
While Antigua and Barbuda’s contribution to global climate change is miniscule, we nevertheless have certain principles to advance. Firstly, we must seek to demonstrate leadership and example to the international community in tackling this global problem which has such dire consequences for our beloved small island nation.
Secondly, Antigua and Barbuda, in fact, has a very high per capita consumption of energy driven by our relatively high standard of living. This in itself presents opportunities for us to reduce our demand for energy through improved management without sacrificing socio-economic growth and development and in fact to enhance such socio-economic development.
The time has therefore now come when we must adapt our policies, measures, and behaviour towards patterns of energy use that will enhance competitiveness and efficiency in our socio-economic development.
The opportunities also now exist to harness Antigua and Barbuda’s considerable renewable energy resources drawing on the tremendous advances in technology that have taken place over the past few years.
In 2001 the Government of Antigua and Barbuda endorsed a National Energy Policy, providing a broad framework for action on energy related matters.
My understanding is that today’s workshop will be reviewing a draft Strategic Action Plan to recommend to Government for facilitating implementation of the Energy Policy. This follows discussions last year by the consultants with various stakeholders in public and private sectors.
Among the priorities identified in the National Energy Policy document are:
– Energy Cost Reduction
– Diversification of Energy Sources
– Electricity Reliability Improvement and
– Stimulation of new Economic Opportunities.
My government remains fully committed to enhancing the nation’s green energy and green economy credentials.
A critical element of this has been the initiation by APUA of its electricity interconnection policy for renewable energy. This policy, also increasingly now being adopted in other developed and developing countries, provides electricity consumers with the possibility to reduce their energy demand from the utility while remaining connected to the grid.
This has benefits for both the consumer and the Utility Authority. For the Utility Authority, it means a reduction in its demand for costly imported fuels. For the consumer it means access to a source of virtually free renewable energy once the initial capital costs of the investment are met while having the security of a stable electricity grid.
In order to assist consumers in overcoming the high initial costs of the renewable energy technologies, Cabinet has approved a comprehensive list of components required for installation of various renewable energy technologies particularly for wind and solar applications.
I am aware that at least one major local financial institution has followed this lead and has established a special window for supporting investments in clean energy technologies.
My Ministry also received a number of indications of project proposals for renewable energy interconnections: these include small and medium scale tourism and commercial companies. We will continue to facilitate such interventions as best as possible, working in close cooperation and liaison with APUA and other key stakeholders.
We encourage electricity consumers, including household consumers, to explore this option for renewable energy development and the details of the programme are available on the APUA website.
We believe that the results of a transition to green energy are worth the investment. With assistance from the Government of the USA and the OAS, we have recently seen the successful installation of a 6 kiloWatt solar photovoltaic power unit within our historic Nelsons Dockyard National Park.
My understanding is that the results so far have exceeded expectations and allowed for a significant reduction in the need for using the costly gas powered generator. This small project has no doubt helped to spur productivity, reduce environmental pollution (including noise pollution) and reduce Antigua and Barbuda’s overall contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition to its direct economic contribution to the National Park, the solar power unit also serves as a demonstration of the use of these technologies within an environmentally sensitive and historic site. In this regard, Government has identified a number of other demonstration sites, including at the VC Bird International Airport and the Government office Complex, for displaying renewable energy technologies.
I expect that these projects will soon be in-place, providing the public with an appreciation of some of the applications for these rapidly developing technologies.
Following on technical work supported by the Government of Germany, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, through the APUA, is also keen to assess the viability of a 5MegaWatt Wind Farm at Crabbes Peninsula.
The results of the German study clearly establish that a favourable wind regime exists in the area which is also ideally suited for interconnection given its proximity to APUA’s major generating stations, the public ownership of the land, and the largely industrial nature of the site.
The principal challenges which we will need to overcome in harnessing this available resource are those related to the costs and financing of the Wind Farm, as well as the technical issues from an engineering perspective for allowing such a major transition within the electricity grid and the phasing of the transition.
Preliminary discussions have already begun with our international partners as to how we can develop the 5MW site with its implications for reducing our dependence on costly foreign fuels, utilizing our own available indigenous energy resource, and making our contribution to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
We will continue to explore this project as a major element of the government’s energy strategy. As you may have heard, CARICOM Energy Ministers recently agreed on establishment of certain renewable energy targets for the region, and we see the 5MW Wind Farm as an instrument in allowing us to strive towards any such revised and enhanced targets.
However it is important to recognize that the first response to promoting sustainable energy must involve the most efficient use of energy. We are not satisfied that sufficient efforts are being made, in public and private sectors, to maximize the use of energy – be it in terms of transportation or electricity usage. As the experts point out – energy conservation constitutes the low hanging fruit of green energy management.
In this regard, one of the primary constraints towards advancing the green energy agenda in Antigua and Barbuda, and indeed in most other OECS countries, is the need to strengthen the institutional capability for energy management.
This requires a technical capacity dedicated towards coordination and management of various energy related issues and concerns. In recognition of this, efforts are presently underway within my Ministry to strengthen its capability for energy management.
This enhanced institutional capacity will also be essential in providing a focal point for coordinating regional and international support to the Energy portfolio and should include a restructured national consultative mechanism for energy in Antigua and Barbuda. I understand that the format and mandate of such an institutional capacity will be a part of your discussions here today and we look forward to seeing the recommendations to emerge in that regard.
Finally let me express appreciation to our international partners, in this case the Organization of American States and the European Union, for their support in this important effort of national development.
Antigua and Barbuda has forged strong bonds of cooperation with both organizations over the years and we look forward to your continued support as we advance with implementation of our green energy agenda for Antigua and Barbuda including the development of our renewable energy capabilities.
Certainly, we all recognize that the problems relating to sustainable energy are inherently transnational in scope and will require transnational responses.
Let me wish you all a productive and enjoyable day’s activities. I look forward to seeing the report and recommendations that will emerge from todays deliberations.
Thank you very much.
And May God bless each and everyone of us.