Environment

Sharing German ENERGY

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor — publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2014    

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IT wasn't difficult for German Ambassador Josef Beck to identify renewable energy and climate change as two areas to give special attention when he arrived here in 2011.

After all, Germany has more than two decades' experience in developing renewable energy systems, and has targeted the year 2050 by which it intends to have a "green economy".

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines a green economy as "one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities".

Added the UNEP: "Practically speaking, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services."

Ambassador Beck admits that the goal set by his Government is ambitious. However, he has faith in the resolve of the German people to achieve their objective.

By 2050, he told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview, Germany wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 95 per cent.

"We want the energy system based by 80 per cent of renewable energy," Ambassador Beck said. "We now have 23 per cent renewable energy, but to go to 80 per cent in a major economy like the German economy — the fourth biggest economy in the world — it's a huge challenge, ambitious, and our partners in the major economies are watching to see if we can do it; can we make our economy green and still remain competitive."

Among the advantages Germany has in pursuing this goal, Beck said, are that about 80 per cent of the population support the initiative, the country is among the pioneers of renewable energy, and it is guided by legislation — the German Renewable Energy Act which came into force in 2000.

"We have 23 years of experience as far as renewable energy is concerned... We are also on the cutting edge of renewable energy technology [and] we also have regulation," Beck said.

That experience, the ambassador pointed out, equips Germany with the ability to offer assistance to developing countries like Jamaica.

"Renewable energy and climate change are areas that I chose when I came here, as I looked at where I could make a genuine contribution," Ambassador Beck explained. "For two reasons: the first one is the cost of electricity at 42 cents per kilowatt hour is one of the highest in the region, maybe among the highest in the world; so it is a huge challenge for Jamaica, it matters. Also, Jamaica, as an island in the Caribbean, is very vulnerable to climate change."

Working with the European Union, Germany has, for many years, been helping to fund renewable energy and climate change projects in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

One such project — the Sustainable Energy Roadmap for Jamaica — was delivered last year.

"It is probably the most comprehensive work on renewable energies — starting from the energy mix, to regulation, the possibilities, which sources of energy you could use, where, interconnectivity, even the question of storage — ever done in Jamaica," Ambassador Beck said.

"So that is financed by Germany under the International Climate Initiative, where developed countries promise to support developing countries in adaptation to climate change," he added.

At the presentation of the road map last November, Jamaica's Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell said he was confident that the project would "enable Jamaica to map, in more precise ways, the additional electricity generation capacity that we seek".

Ambassador Beck also pointed to the Climate Risk Adaptation and Insurance in the Caribbean project, launched last October with Jamaica International Insurance Company.

"It's being done for the first time in the world. It is also financed by the German Government within the climate initiative," he said.

"It looks at helping people, basically poor people, to insure their risks, help them to adapt to natural disasters," the ambassador added, explaining further that the programme promotes weather-index based insurance as a risk management instrument.

The project offers what is termed a Livelihood Protection Policy that basically improves access to credit, leading to financial stability in the long run and encourages behaviour shift from risk neutral to risk aware.

Ambassador Beck, of course, could not end the discussion on the topic without highlighting the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme, which he noted has been running for at least 10 years.

Funded by Germany and run jointly with Caricom, the programme is aimed at removing barriers to the use of renewable energy and promotes the implementation of energy efficiency measures in the region.

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