Calls have intensified for Caribbean countries to speed up the pace at which they are currently moving to integrate more renewables as a part of their energy matrix.
President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Gene Leon, speaking recently at an energy dialogue forum held in partnership with its stakeholders and borrowing member countries (BMCs), called on governments of the region to move with greater alacrity in taking the necessary steps to move on green energy transition.
"Fast and just — these are the foremost principles which must underpin the renewable energy (RE) transition in the Caribbean. The pace and scale of the implementation of renewable energy in the Caribbean has been unacceptably slow, with an average annual investment in RE capacity averaging US$75 million compared to the approximate US$1.3 billion per annum which is needed to achieve the regional target," he stated.
Warning that a slow take-up could adversely impact economies, especially in the wake of rising oil prices globally, Leon said that there can be no sustainable development without sustainable energy.
"We are well aware that none of our efforts to build resilience and sustainability in the critical sectors of our economies and societies will yield success without an affordable, reliable supply of energy," he stated.
In line with the findings from an Oxford University study done late last year and which found that switching from fossil fuels could save the world as much as US$12 trillion by 2050, countries globally are being further pressed to accelerate the pace of their green energy transition, especially now as the price of renewables fall.
With a number of countries in August 2022 becoming signatories to the Renewables in Latin America and the Caribbean (RELAC) initiative and pledging their individual contributions to the regional target of 70 per cent renewable energy by 2030, the CDB president has advocated for increased action around the objective. With current effort by a number of these countries believed to be below the desired mark, it has been found where some steps are being taken but stakeholders want to see more being done and at a faster pace.
For countries such as Barbados, largely regarded as the poster child for clean energy in the Caribbean, their ambition is to move to 100 per cent renewables and to become carbon neutral by 2030. Other countries such as Jamaica has also set a target of 50 per cent, Trinidad to 30 per cent and Cayman Islands to 70 per cent by 2037.
Underscoring the need for high-quality governance and an equitable transition, Leon further stressed that the goal is for no one to be left behind.
"When we consider the current challenges that are retarding our progress, whether it be the need to balance the political, technical, and economic objectives; having to treat with legacy issues such as the exclusivity of integrated monopoly utility, and potential stranded assets; or ensuring that risks are allocated appropriately between public and private sectors — the solutions to these and other challenges are a function of governance.
"A mutually agreed approach for an appropriate governance framework will undoubtedly set the scene for an accelerated penetration of RE and ultimately an achievement of the regional target," the CDB president said.
An IDB report outlining a similar conclusion also said that while Latin America and the Caribbean were generally found to be on track with its decarbonisation efforts, they must pick up pace to get to the desired targets.
"Since 2015, all countries in LAC have worked to reduce emissions. From 2015 to 2020, the region increased its renewable capacity by 33 per cent, yet the pace needs to speed up. As populations grow, electricity demand is projected to increase by 48 per cent from 2020 to 2030.
"Without significant changes in energy mixes and expansion plans, Latin America and the Caribbean will fall short of the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050," the report also said.