Low oil prices should not compromise Caricom’s pursuits for increased energy security that will benefit all citizens, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said.
“Despite our different diverse geography, socio-economic levels and energy potential we have found (this) understanding,” Rowley said in an address at the US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit on Wednesday in Washington, DC.
Given the “enormous scale” of resources in the region, renewable energy can and should be contributing more to the region’s energy needs and increasing prospects of energy security, he said, reiterating Caricom’s 47 per cent target for power generation from renewables by 2027.
Trinidad and Tobago’s own commitment, he noted, was ten per cent—or 150 megawatts—of renewable power generation by 2031, with wind and solar energy the leading options.
Rowley also singled out private sector involvement to making dreams of renewable energy generation a reality, calling their involvement “critical,” and suggesting tax credits to increase investment.
US Vice President Joe Biden, who spearheaded the Summit—a follow up from talks first held in January 2015—also addressed the audience.
Helping the region “succeed and thrive” by achieving energy security is “entirely in the self interest” of the United States, Biden said.
“We hope that you view it in your self interest as well…we want you to be energy secure so more people across this region can (have more opportunities) for growth. The more you prosper, the better off my country is. It strengthens our security and opens opportunity for shared economic growth,” he said.
Low oil prices mean more money is available to new energy infrastructure, and now is a moment of opportunity to sustain renewable energy generation and use when high oil prices return. The region, he said, was poised to be the “laboratory” for how the island nations can deal with energy sustainability.
“If we do this right it will become the blueprint for how other nations are able to meet the needs of their constituents,” he said.
Despite discussions of regional energy security—and even national security— absent from the agenda was any talk of Venezuela, even though several islands in the Caribbean have as their primary supply of fuel, oil imported from Venezuela through the PetroCaribe agreement.
“It’s not about Petro Caribe, just the broader energy security of the region. You will not hear the word Venezuela being mentioned at all,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs told the media at a briefing.
The United States’ interest, he said, is that when the world’s economy fluctuates it can affect the economies in the region in a serious way.
“That has implications for us in terms of our national security and our diplomatic relations, so it’s in our national security interest that the Caribbean and also Central America for (these regions) to have prosperous economies that are safe,” he said.
The US State Department also released its US-Caribbean-Central American Task Force report for energy security yesterday. Among other things, the report noted that Caricom’s leadership is aware of the need to transform the region’s energy situation and the US is committed to supporting that.
The next steps, the Task Force said, will be to establish a priority list of clean energy projects for the region, through co-ordination of the Caribbean Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE).