Renewable energy in the Caribbean is rapidly growing and most of the islands in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have been eagerly and ambitiously moving towards a more sustainable energy mix. With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, islands in the region do not have a predominant oil and gas sector that can provide fuel for electricity generation. For most islands, this means that they have to import diesel and other fuels to produce power. 

This often results in power being very expensive — in Trinidad and Tobago, we pay approximately 5 cents/kwh (which is among the lowest in the world), while in countries like Antigua, citizens pay 38 cents/kwh, which is among the highest electricity rates in the world. It is therefore urgent for countries to bring this cost down and reduce the import of fuel. 

CARICOM nations are also very cognizant of the need to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and decarbonise their power sectors as they are inherently at risk as small island developing states when it comes to climate change. 

To achieve energy sustainability and reduce emissions, most islands are now focused on growing their renewable energy sectors. 

According to the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC), utility companies around the Caribbean need to embrace a new business model built on digitisation, decarbonisation and decentralisation (the 3Ds). 

CARILEC also stated in a press release that utilities are uniquely placed to lead the transformation of the energy sector, which is currently being impacted by emerging technologies, and is experiencing a shift towards integration of more renewable energy sources. 

Acting CARILEC Chairman, Eddinton Powell, said that, ‘As Caribbean utility leaders, we can, and we must integrate more renewable energy solutions in our delivery of service’. 

He added that this is a ‘critical imperative for the Caribbean if we are to reduce our dependency on traditional hydrocarbon fuel sources, much of it imported to the region, with all of the uncertainties that this entails. With an energy economy led by renewables and a transformed and electrified transportation sector, we can open the way for even greater entrepreneurship, and ultimately wealth creation throughout the region’. 

Trinidad and Tobago has committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 15 per cent by 2030 and has ambitions to have 10 per cent renewable energy by 2021. Other islands have much more aggressive targets. 

In Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has committed the island nation to transition to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. 

According to InterPress Service, Peter Ruddock, Manager of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, hailed the Prime Minister’s decision as a step in the right direction. 

‘We do have to look at our indigenous sources — the wind, the sun; it shows good leadership for the Office of the Prime Minister to be outfitted with solar panels, which will reduce their consumption’, Ruddock said. 

This is in reference to using the resources that are widely available in the region, i.e., wind and solar. 

There are also non-traditional renewable energy projects being explored in the region. Dominica recently received $27m from the World Bank to support the construction of a 7mw geothermal plant. 

According to a World Bank press release, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said, ‘Everything we are doing in Dominica has to be climate-resilient as we cannot afford to rebuild the country every two to three years. This project will help us diversify our energy mix and invest in greener and more reliable energy sources, so we can be up and running shortly after a storm’. 

World Bank Director for the Caribbean, Tahseen Sayed, said that, “This project can have a transformational impact for future generations in Dominica … By investing in geothermal, Dominica has the potential for significant economic diversification. It can become a real hub for renewable energy in the Caribbean and a leader in the quest for climate resilience’. 

Geothermal energy is also being explored in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The country took a major step towards a cleaner and more secure energy future, launching a multi-million-dollar geothermal energy drilling project. The project is being made possible through financing from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) which secured US$27 million through contributions from partners, including the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union’s Caribbean Investment Facility (EU-CIF) and the government of New Zealand. 

While projects are being developed in other parts of the region, Trinidad and Tobago sometimes appears to be lagging. 

However, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries in Trinidad and Tobago has quietly been working towards achieving the 10 per cent renewable energy target since 2017. In December 2017, the Ministry put out an expression of interest for grid scale renewable energy projects. The companies that expressed interest were shortlisted and invited to a request for proposal exercise. The deadline for submissions of these proposals is the end of June 2019.

It is hoped that Trinidad and Tobago will also soon have a major renewable energy project ahead of the 2021 target.