Representatives of the fledgling renewable energy sector told CARICOM governments today to bring more action and less talk when it comes to addressing issues related to achieving energy efficiencies and implementing policies to facilitate growth of the sector.
Their position was made clear at the start of a CARICOM Energy Week conference which is taking place here under the theme of Empowering and Sustainable Development. The conference is aimed at identifying solutions to challenges and areas for collaboration, among other things.
President of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA), Aidan Rogers, lamented the absence of cohesiveness among Barbados government ministries. He cited a need for “synchronization” of legislation and a more concerted effort from Government in driving the development of the renewable energy sector.
Rogers said putting a focus on “several complementary technologies”, including electric vehicles and energy efficiency, was critical to the sustainable development of the region.
“One of the issues we need to address . . . is . . . getting our legislative framework together but I think even before we get to the synchronization of our legislative frameworks, we need to have a synchronization of our policy frameworks,” he said.
“There needs to be a concerted effort on the part of political administration and government staff . . . and there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure there is that succinct and focused synchronization at the policy level so that our policies with the respective ministerial mandates are all aligned to achieve the necessary goals,” Rogers added.
Project leader of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance Project (REETA), Andreas Taeuber, said while electric mobility, which is a focus of the conference, was a possibility to help address high energy costs in the region, he did not believe it would work for all the islands.
He said small islands such as Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada could benefit from more electric vehicles. He added, however, that while it could be an option in larger countries such as Jamaica and Guyana, other options including biogas should equally be vigorously pursued.
Programme Manager of Energy at the CARICOM Secretariat, Devon Gardner, posited that while policies were necessary, “the issue of policy within the Caribbean and what one could call the harmonization of policy is, to an extent, not where the critical piece of the puzzle lies”.
“The fact is that we have failed in the region to translate policy from regional policies to national policies in many instances but in the majority of instances, the bigger issue is that we have not translated policies into regulations,” he added.
“The bottom line is, until we get to the stage where we begin to take policies from paper and bring them into Parliament and put them into action, we will continue to sit here and talk about the lack of policy and the lack of incentives and the barriers,” Gardner went on.
“At the end of the day, what is going to be important is not just the development of suitable policies, but the drive to translate those policies into tangible regulation at the level of the member states,” he emphasized.
The CARICOM official agreed that in order to achieve some of the objectives for the region in relation to energy efficiency improvements, a greater focus should be placed on the transportation sector. However, he said a lack of data was hindering progress, pointing out that a lot of the work being done was “guess work”.
Minister of Industry, Donville Inniss, gave the assurance that the Government of Barbados intended to “meet the challenges” by improving its efficiency in fossil fuel use for transportation under four main categories.
These categories were identified as public transport, private transport, transportation infrastructure and alternative modes of transportation.
Inniss acknowledged that while Government could create “the best of policies” for the development of the renewable energy sector, if investors were frustrated by the execution of those policies, “then we have done little” and potential investors would look elsewhere.
“If there are delays in planning applications, investors will go where they believe they will be taken more seriously. If Ministers of Energy and regulators at the Fair Trading Commission, in our case in Barbados, are not on the same page, then we have confusion. If we seek to be more bureaucratic than those who invented bureaucracy, then we will certainly frustrate legitimate investors in the region,” he warned.