US to support alternative energy projects in Caribbean

Thursday, July 18, 2019

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JAMAICA is among several Caribbean countries slated to benefit from United States (US) Department of State support to implement alternative energy-related projects.

Global Power Sector programme manager, Bureau of Energy Resources, US Department of State, Faith Corneille, said that more than 70 projects have been identified that could receive technical assistance or finance.

This follows an assessment conducted by the department over the past year, with the support of consulting firm Deloitte, which looked on the market potential for private clean energy investment in Jamaica and across the wider region.

“This analysis has revealed that there are quite a number of investment opportunities across the Caribbean,” Corneille said while addressing the opening of a two-day alternative energy workshop at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Monday.

This assessment was in support of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI), which aims to boost energy security and sustainable economic growth in the region by attracting investment in a range of energy technologies.

Corneille said that the regional market assessment comprised outreach to lenders, banks and financiers, policymakers and project developers, “who also might be interested in a potential loan guarantee with the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Development Credit Authority”.

Through this authority, the USAID provides partial credit guarantees to mobilise local financing in developing countries. The loan guarantee would help to stimulate investment by mitigating some of the risks banks face when lending to energy projects in the region.

“The Credit Authority is actively negotiating with commercial banks to finalise one or more energy sector loan guarantees that can help unlock private capital in the Caribbean energy sector,” Corneille said.

If finalisation of a loan guarantee is successful, Corneille said, the US Department of State stands to leverage millions of dollars in private investment “in a sector that is well on its way to being more energy secure and sustainable and able to deliver reliable and affordable power for the people and businesses of Jamaica”.

She noted that agencies across the US Department of State are looking for opportunities to support Caribbean energy sector development.

“We are excited about the prospects for collaboration, to help attract energy investment to Jamaica and the Caribbean region,” she said.

In the meantime, Corneille praised Jamaica's progress over the last 10 to 15 years, in terms of advancing the renewable energy agenda, noting that it “is truly impressive”.

“With over 400 megawatts of natural gas projects expected by 2020, various wind and solar projects in operation, the planned deployment of rooftop solar and efficient technologies throughout schools and hospitals, Jamaica has already achieved real progress,” she said.

In her remarks, Minister of Science, Energy and Technology Fayval Williams welcomed the continued partnership with the US Government, particularly in support of energy investment.

She noted that the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), since its launch in 1971, has financed millions of dollars in energy investments in the Caribbean, with more than US$90 million or 75 per cent being invested in Jamaica alone.

“Jamaica has had a long history with the United States... and is now being fortified by a vibrant partnership on energy. This partnership has propelled us even further towards increasing the percentage of renewables in our electricity generation as well as strengthening our diversification efforts,” she said.

Williams noted that with the support of OPIC, Jamaica has received financing for two major renewable energy projects — the 36 megawatt (MW) BMR wind and the 20MW Content Solar facilities, which represent a total investment of approximately US$90 million.

“In 2017, USAID awarded the first grant through the Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central America to Jamaica for the development of the 37MW Eight Rivers Solar Facility in Jamaica,” she noted.

Meanwhile, Williams welcomed the staging of the conference, noting that it “holds tremendous possibilities for Jamaica and the Caribbean region as we seek to increase our diversification efforts and explore the possibilities for greater inclusion of alternative energy in our ecosystem”.

For his part, country representative, USAID, Jason Fraser, lauded Jamaica's “truly remarkable” achievements in the energy sector.

He pledged that USAID will continue to partner with the country “to advance and evolve to fit our common goals in the energy sector”.

The two-day workshop, hosted by the US Department of State, involved discussions among technical experts, investors and decision makers on opportunities related to alternative energy in Jamaica and the Caribbean region.

It involves partnership with Deloitte and is among four being held in the Caribbean.

One was also held in the Dominican Republic, another is to be held in St Lucia next week, and the final one is scheduled for September in Barbados.


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