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Renewable Energy and Indigenous Fossil Fuels – Platforms for Sustainable Island Energy.

Sustainable Development is Energy Dependent.

A sustainable supply of energy services (the appropriate use of energy to achieve desired productive outputs) will continue to dictate the viable developmental options for sovereign island nations. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have special vulnerabilities to global economic issues as identified in the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action.  Strategies for economic survival and success including tourism, industrialisation and mechanisation, import substitution and improving energy security   are all energy dependent.  Sustainable social targets of SIDS and pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals such as improving the quality of life, modern health services, education, poverty reduction, and increasing water and food supplies; national security; and modern transportation services, are all energy dependent. Environmental health also depends on sustainable and cost competitive energy options to minimize environmental impacts.  Also energy options used for addressing environmental impacts should produce economic, energetic and productive collaterals.

Energy Status of SIDS

With few exceptions, SIDS from the Caribbean are predominantly energy importers and therefore energy insecure.  Islands approaching ‘Sustainable Energy Island’ status may include Dominica with > 50% of their energy supplied to the national grid from hydro (7.6 MW) and the French Overseas Department with 55 % of their demand met by wind and hydropower.  The Dominican Republic meets approximately 49% of its overall energy demand from biomass and hydro.

CARICOM hydrocarbon demand accounts for around 90 – 95% of total primary energy supplied (240,000 bopd) from extra-Regional sources, with renewables accounting for approximately 5 % of total primary energy supply (UNECLAC, 2005; CARICOM Energy Policy 2007).  This cost CARICOM Member States approximately US$ 2.54 billion in 2006 on petroleum imports and it is projected that the Region will need approximately US$ 20 billion over the next 15 years to meet its energy needs. Jamaica consumed approximately 29.7 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products in 2006 at a cost of US$ 1.73 billion (13.6% of GDP and 65% of export foreign exchange earnings) which increased to US$ 2.2 billion in 2007 and could increase further to US$ 3.2 billion in 2008 if oil prices continue to hover around the US$ 100/bbl mark .

To break this ominous un-sustainable path, possibly two early strategic actions may be needed.  In this context, the concurrent and strategic actions of energy conservation and producing more high value outputs from less energy (energy efficiency) must become the first line of defense as an immediate to long-term strategy for SIDS.  Energy efficiency improves market competitiveness, increases production levels and profitability against less efficient counterparts (Wright, 2003).  Efficient operations also lead to less environmental impacts as pollution prevention and reduction techniques are successfully applied.  Appropriate application of energy efficient and conservation best practices can often be implemented in 1 – 2 years, while some large scale renewable energy technology (REN) projects may require 2 – 4 years from feasibility study to operation.

Energy efficiency and conservation (EE&C) using onsite cogeneration and distributed generation in commercial and industrial sectors such as power generation, tourism and sugar cane processing, not only reduce expenditure (diverting monies to other key areas of national development such as education, health and social services) but facilitates productivity levels at international benchmarks. Energy efficiency and conservation gains can be most dramatic for SIDS with high electricity costs, (e.g. the Caribbean mean average cost of USD 0.17/kWh) and high industrial energy demands.  The hotel industry for which energy consumption (equipment, appliances, air-conditioning and lighting etc) accounts for over 70 % of the total utility costs  (USAID-EAST, 2003), can with simple inexpensive devices and practices reduce electricity consumption per guest night by 10 –24 % in 4 -18 months. Other industrial and commercial consumers can achieve saving of up to 40% using energy efficient lighting and retrofits.  In recognition of this first line of defense against an unsustainable future a CARICOM Charter on Energy Efficiency has been propagated (CARICOM Energy Policy, 2007).  Energy efficiency and conservation can therefore contribute in measured amounts to energy security but quickly arrives at a ceiling dictated by the laws of thermodynamics and human consumptive patterns.

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