After more than a decade of formulation and review, CARICOM now has a Regional Energy Policy.
Approval for the policy came recently at the 41st Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development on Energy, held in Trinidad and Tobago.
The policy aims to transform the energy sector withing CARICOM through “the provision of secure and sustainable supplies of energy in a manner which minimizes energy waste in all sectors”.
Targets for efficiency are set out in the policy, which is said to be now going forward for endorsement to the Heads of Government of CARICOM.
In her opening remarks, Officer-in-Charge of Trade and Economic Integration with the CARICOM Secretariat, Desiree Field-Ridley had said it was past time for final approval of the policy.
She noted that the region was not oblivious to the fact that there were lingering issues with regard to trade in energy, but said with the mandate from energy minister, CARICOM could go forward with the policy while seeking to address the outstanding matters.
“Notwithstanding that some CARICOM Member States are producers of petroleum and petroleum products, the primary energy challenge for the region remains the over-dependence on imported petroleum and petroleum products.
“The trend over the last three years indicates that the total cost of the annual fuel import bill for the region is around US$8 billion to $9 billion with the tendency to be rising. This continues to have a deleterious effect on the economic and social development of the net energy importing countries of CARICOM,” she said.
It was the reason the region continued to try to find ways to mitigate the impact of high oil prices on food and other commodities.
As a result as well over the last two years through COTED, member states had “sought suspensions of the Common External Tariff on various items to alleviate the burden on the citizens of the community”.
“Similarly, one expectation of this meeting of the COTED on energy is that [it] would also consider any energy sector short term action which can be taken…
“Achieving energy security through the diversification of energy supplies (based on the development of indigenous resources), is a major focus of the Revised Draft Regional Energy Policy.
“In this regard, and especially for, but not only for, the majority of our countries which do not have proven hydrocarbon resources, it is only rational that they also aggressively pursue the harnessing of their abundant renewable energy resources whether it is in the form of solar energy, wind power, hydropower, biomass, geothermal energy, or marine energy,” said Field-Ridley.
The approval was hailed as historic, with Field-Ridley congratulating Trinidad and Tobago on its leadership in energy matters, particularly concerning the government’s implementation of a range of incentives to encourage renewable energy development and improvement in energy efficiency. (LB)