Sustainable energy helps reduce costly reliance on fossil fuels in many Caribbean States

By Christina MacCulloch

The international economic crisis, has hurt the Caribbean economies, mainly by affecting tourism. This has brought a sense of urgency to the region’s need to rely less on costly imported fossil fuels. The need for more energy efficiency is greater than ever, and so is the potential.

Barbados, for example, has some oil production, but domestic demand greatly exceeds local supply. The country’s dependency on fuel imports represents a significant expenditure and a drain on foreign reserves that affect its economic and social development, as well as the country’s competitiveness.

Around US$208 million were spent on oil imports in 2007, representing about 7 percent of the gross domestic product of Barbados, a level comparable to government expenditure on education. Costly fuels mean Barbadian businesses have a harder time competing in the international marketplace.

But according to recent studies, Barbados can achieve a Sustainable Energy Matrix by 2029. The country can do this by diversifying energy sources to include renewable energies and more efficiency. This will reduce reliance on fossil fuels, improve energy security, reduce electricity costs with energy efficient appliances, and reduce CO2 emissions. An IDB loan for US$45 million will help the government create a sustainable energy framework for Barbados.

“The country has potential for on and off-shore wind energy, biomass cogeneration, waste to energy, as well as solar photovoltaic panels which could be installed in the roofs of the houses, commercial and government buildings,” said IDB energy specialist Christiaan Gischler. “These technologies may operate below the avoided cost of fossil fuel, which would make economic sense for both the utility and end users to embrace this approach. The overall renewable energy economically and commercially viable potential is estimated in 28.9 percent of the total installed capacity of electricity.”

“Also, if the people of Barbados used energy efficiency appliances and technologies, the potential savings generated through this would be 19.4 percent of the total electricity consumption,” added Gischler. “The most cost-effective appliances for the country are, among others, compact fluorescent lamps, power monitors, premium efficiency motors, efficient air conditioning systems, all commercially available or easily made commercially accessible in Barbados.”

The IDB-financed program will help address the barriers, mainly policy and regulatory, which prevent the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, such as institutional, policy and regulatory barriers, and will promote professional and technical capabilities.

The IDB is preparing and financing several sustainable energy projects in Barbados

With the new sustainable energy framework, by 2029 about 29 percent of energy consumed in Barbados could be generated by renewable sources, 19.4 percent could be saved with energy efficiency programs, generating net benefits (discounting the cost of implementation) for the country, including savings in electricity costs of at least $285 million in the next 20 years, and CO2 emissions would be reduced by around 4.5 million tons in the same period.

Other IDB-financed sustainable energy and energy efficiency projects in the Caribbean include initiatives in The Bahamas, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname

Additionally, there are several operations, including loans, Global Environment Facility funded projects and IDB technical assistance being prepared for the Caribbean Region for the 2011–2012 period for more than $150 million, which will definitely contribute to make energy/electricity more sustainable, less dependent on fossil fuels and affordable in the region”, concluded Gischler.