EU diplomat urges Caribbean to rethink renewable energy policies

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Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barfod

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday October 2, 2014, CMC – The head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Mikael Barfod says if the Caribbean is to fully integrate renewable energy into its development path so that it impacts on its economy, then it must adjust its mind-set to do so.

Barfod, who will be participating in the October 6-8 Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum in Miami, said currently, access to renewable energy in the region is much skewed.

“Only a few Caribbean citizens have had the opportunity to educate themselves on the benefits, and even fewer have actually implemented various renewable energy systems with attendant benefits, despite the affordability of the technology, financing opportunities and very impressive “payback” periods.

“Renewable energy seems to be perceived as being for the “elites”, while in many countries in the region the fuel adjustment clause still hits the most vulnerable harder than the rest of the population,” he added.

Barfod, in an article entitled “Renewable Energy – Bridging the Caribbean Divide – An EU perspective” said the Caribbean must adopt an renewable energy mentality, even as he acknowledged that “this is no doubt easier said than done”.

But he argued that with the high education levels of the region, relatively robust governance systems, proximity to and extensive exchanges with very developed economies and the substantial amounts of investments offered by both donor agencies and the private sector, a very sound basis exists on which to achieve the goals of the region”.

He said the Caribbean realities of low penetration of renewable energy, insufficient renewable energy specialists and technicians; energy monopolies non- implementation of policies, legislation and regulations as well as relatively low public awareness are well known and documented.

Barfod said that education, lifestyle changes, policy, legislation and regulation are factors that should be considered among the “first steps” to overcome the impediments.

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“Education is fundamental. Similar to the efforts in the hospitality sector, the renewable energy sector must ensure that all aspects of the sector are captured at various levels of the school curriculum.

“The curriculum at the primary, secondary and tertiary level should all feature aspects of the renewable energy subject matter. In this regard, it is vital that a gender balanced approach is adopted. On a general level too public education should inform citizens of the region on making energy choices when purchasing appliances and the affordability and financing options for installing renewable energy equipment in their homes.”

He said essentially the Caribbean is fighting an undeclared conflict on high energy prices and energy insecurity, both of which have significantly adverse effects on the development of the region.

“At the same time, the Caribbean will cement its already strong moral case in international climate change negotiations by a radical adoption of renewable energy and energy efficient measures.”

Barfod said volumes have been written on the importance of legislation, policy and regulation for establishing sound investment climates and general sector development frameworks.

“However, it is not sufficient merely to enact these. They must be implemented, regularly updated and reviewed by all stakeholders in a country to reflect changing technologies, changing times and to encourage, mandate and inform the renewable energy development strategy.

“These are pre- requisites for bridging the divide. It may be claimed that in many countries of the region, these already exist. This is well, but are they then also translated into action? If this is not the case, stakeholders must collectively find out why not.”

The European Union diplomat said policies, legislation and regulation should not be seen as passive documents but must be actively reworked to deliver and reflect changing times, technologies and circumstances.

“There are countless examples of countries, cities, utilities and organisations that have taken ambitious strides in renewable energy and energy efficiency, it is time that the Caribbean shows its strength and joins this group – sooner rather than later.”

  • Strongly agree with the views expressed by EU Diplomat that Caribbean needs to implement renewable energy strategies. However, while it is true that renewable energy needs to be integrated into the curriculum – that will only frustrate the newly aware when they see that government & big business do NOT provide the practical implementation. So many times in Jamaica I wanted to use more energy efficient materials, solar water heater when helping a family build a small house but no information, no materials in the stores, no price or tax incentives, no government push for these techniques. Insufficient evidence in public buildings of renewable energy, waste/recycling etc. This step change can ONLY start with government & big business, impossible to do this alone as a citizen if the information, supplies and infrastructure not there.

    • Peter Rowan

      Bridget, the individual citizen if educated on these issues will then vote for the politician who provides these services and makes changes. You all live in democracies, that is the added advantage, make your politicians accountable.

  • Vere Palmer

    For years
    I encouraged my brother to switch or upgrade his solar water heating system to
    a solar system, so he can still heat his water, but he has access to
    electricity for his entire home. This is where all Caribbean governments fail
    their citizens. There is an abundance of sunlight, all year round to ensure a
    constant solar energy environment.

    The math
    shows that our a period of time, it cheaper to go solar because it pays for
    itself.