For many years, energy security is at the heart of concerns of Caribbean leaders.
“Most Caribbean countries, particularly the Lesser Antilles, are almost entirely dependent on oil to meet their electricity needs,” says Jorge Familiar, Vice President of the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean. This means high and unstable prices for consumers in the Caribbean. With an average electricity cost four times higher than rich countries like the United States, high energy costs are one of the main obstacles to economic growth and prosperity of the region.
The Caribbean region has a large and diverse renewable energy potential that includes solar energy, but also wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass. In recent years, interest in renewable energy has increased, notably due to the increasing number of violent hurricanes (Irma) and political instability in many oil-producing countries.
There are still many obstacles to the adoption of renewable energies. The private sector remains reluctant, as these energies are perceived as risky and may involve high initial costs. Moreover, electricity prices discourage foreign investment, lack of standards hampers development and the rate of skilled labor is low.
Despite all these issues facing the energy sector, several renewable energy projects have been developed.
Costa Rica is the leader in the development of green energy in the Caribbean. In 2016, about 95% of the energy was produced from renewable resources, according to national data.
The country is on the right track. According to the Electricity Institute of Costa Rica (ICE), the country in 2015 has been run entirely on renewable energies for two full months. This is a world first. By 2021, the country has set the target of zero CO2 emissions.
In Guatemala, 24% of electricity comes from hydroelectricity, 34% from biomass and biogas and 2.8% from geothermal energy.
According to the country’s Energy Policy 2013-2027, the goal is to reach 80% of electricity production from renewable resources.
Thanks to the collaboration between Cuba and the United States, the island is attracting significant investors seeking to enter the renewable energy sector.
By 2030, the Cuban government’s goal is to increase the production of renewable energy to 24%. Cuba also plans to add 640 MW of wind power, 700 MW of photovoltaic energy and 750 MW of biomass energy through a set of public and private projects.
“The Caribbean certainly has the resources needed for renewable energy to supply the entire region for decades. There are many major economic, social and environmental factors that encourage countries to move towards the development of renewable energy. In order to achieve the objectives of the region, it is essential to follow a policy aimed at transparency of the market and long-term stability for investors.”
US financial support helps to grow the renewable energy sector in the Caribbean. Since 2009, the Obama administration encourages the Region to opt for renewable energy with the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI), coordinated by the Department of State.
On April 9, 2015, President Obama was announcing new partnerships, including a new fund to mobilize private investment in clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Central America.
This collaboration aims at fostering greater cooperation between islands and between governments, donors, international financial institutions and investors, as well as identifying concrete measures to attract investment for sustainable energy initiatives.
Here are some recent initiatives:
Clean Energy Finance
The United States will launch a $20 million facility to encourage investment in clean energy projects in the Caribbean.
Clean Energy Technology Collaboration
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Jamaica’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining will work on collaboration on various projects including energy conservation and efficiency.
In the Caribbean, the tourism industry is the largest energy user. The Department of Energy is working with the hotel industry to improve energy and water efficiency by supporting renewable energy projects (Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewables [CHEER] initiative).
Jamaica Clean Energy Program
The United States Agency for International Development is collaborating with the Government of Jamaica and the private sector on a Clean Energy Program in order to optimize renewable energy integration and accelerate private-sector clean energy investment.
There are many quantities of biomass resources available (including banana and sewer waste) in the Caribbean that have significant potential to produce biogas converted into power and heat, as one report shows. Several clean energy projects have been created in recent years.
The Energy from Waste program by CaribShare Biogas provides an innovative solution to help solve two significant issues in Jamaica: sustainable waste management and access to clean energy. CaribShare collects organic food waste from hotels and livestock farms and turns it into biogas, which is then converted into affordable electricity to address the needs of communities in Jamaica.
“One third of all the food produced (1.3 million tonnes) annually in Jamaica – ends up wasted in landfills, releasing harmful greenhouse gases and contributing to climate change. The cost to transport waste to landfills can put a significant dent into public budgets. Developing countries are in dire need of their own business models that maximize the value that waste can provide to sustainable development,” says Carol Lue Executive Director of CaribShare.
Over the next 10 years, CaribShare plans to develop six additional biodigesters in phases, to provide a total of at least 500 kW capacity.
”Richmond Hill Prison on the Caribbean island of Grenada runs on biogas. A small generator on the prison farm provides enough of it to cook and bake with. It’s a rehabilitation project that benefits the whole island.”
The export of bananas is one of the largest industries in Saint Lucia. The project, implemented by Applied Renewables Caribbean, aims to use waste generated by the Saint Lucia banana trade to produce renewable energy.
“People always complain about the cost of public transportation because fuel is extremely expensive – says Ken Aldonza who runs the project. That’s why I thought of making biofuels from banana waste. ”
Renergon offers specific waste management and energy concepts for Caribbean Areas – Islands. The RSD-Mini Waste allows producing an average of 47 kWel and 68 kWth of continuous power, with 2.000 t/y domestic waste (approx. 70 % organic) and 8.000 working hours yearly.
Lakay Vèt is a Société Anonyme dedicated to leading the resource management sector in Haiti to a responsible and sustainable future by converting waste into valuable resources. BiogasWorld is currently supporting Lakay Vèt in the deployment of a biogas plant near Port-au-Prince to value organic waste.
By joining forces, building a common platform and developing several renewable energy projects, Caribbean countries have shown their willingness to make the energy sector greener and sustainable. They will have to keep up the momentum to develop the energy potential.