Electric Vehicles (EVs) were the main topic of discussion at the recently concluded eighth edition of the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF).
The event ran from Tuesday, November 7 to Thursday, November 9, and was held at AC Hotel Kingston.
"The purpose of CSEF is to create a space within which policymakers from Caricom [Caribbean Community] may explore the opportunities and options that they have before them to improve their energy transition speed and their energy transition effectiveness. So, unlike many of the other forums that are private sector or externally driven, this is one that is driven internally from Caricom by Caricom," Dr Devon Gardner, head of technical programmes, Caribbean Centre For Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), told the Jamaica Observer's weekly Auto magazine.
The automotive market's shift to EVs has been important enough to be recognised as part of that energy transition Caricom nations must make, thus the theme for the CSEF 2023 being 'Powering Transport'.
"It's a great knowledge-sharing event; for example, from the short time I'm here I've learned a little bit about what's going on in the rest of the Caribbean, and it's always good to know what's happening elsewhere to help us make decision here," event speaker Andrew Jackson, president, Jamaica Electric Vehicles Association (JEVA), said.
"We chose transport in general, but EVs are the focus piece in particular because of a couple of reasons," added Gardner.
Those reasons include the rapid evolution of associated green energy technologies that have led to the reduction of costs and the increase in the efficiency of electricity production and storage solutions.
"We've seen significant amounts of technology improvements in electric vehicles. As we see here, we have pickup trucks, motorbikes, all kinds of vehicles that you didn't have on the EV market over five years ago," said Gardner.
The general consensus is that the move to EVs is a good thing for the region, as it will lower dependency on expensive imported fossil fuels, and works in the line with ecological goals of Caricom. However, it was noted that many Caribbean countries may not have the proper energy infrastructure to handle mass EV adoption.
"Assuming that there is significant penetration of electric vehicles and that charging is taking place all at the same time, and it's happening at a time when the grid is already under strain from peak use, then it could create inordinate burdens on our grid. So we have to figure out how that we will work with the electricity utilities to ensure that the robustness of the grid is sufficiently designed to account for the new demands that will come from transport and other areas of electrification," he said.
Gardner and his colleagues at CSEF see a move to large-scale renewable energy sources, such as solar, as the solution to the problem.
Other concerns discussed were standardisation and quality of charging equipment in Caricom nations.
This is the eight staging of CSEF since its creation in 2008. This is the second time Jamaica has hosted the biennial event that focuses on policy and strategy for clean energy throughout Caricom Member States.
The event features closed with public discussions on sustainable energy and hands-on displays from various stakeholders in the renewable energy space.
"We have seen since 2008, when we had the first edition to now, a swell of interest and greater numbers each time CSEF has been held," said Gardner.