This week members of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy team traveled to Barbados to participate in the Mobilization Forum in support of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat’s Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy Initiative (C-SERMS). It was an opportunity for various projects to share their respective final results related to the larger C-SERMS platform. It was also a chance for international donors and project developers to take initial steps in exploring potential follow-up work. In the words of Ambassador Joan Underwood of Antigua and Barbuda, “This is kind of like speed dating. We’re not looking for a full on proposal, just trying to see if a pair might be interested in a second date.” While no “second date” officially materialized, those in attendance were very clear that the steps CARICOM member states are taking show real promise in creating a more secure and sustainable energy sector in the region and that strong interdependence will be necessary for that progress to continue.
In March, our team presented the rough draft of the Phase 1 report at a special meeting of CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED). Since then our team has finished the final deliverable report with some bold but achievable targets for the region. Worldwatch surmises that by 2027, renewable energy can account for 47 percent of electricity generation, energy intensity can be reduced by 33 percent, and emissions from the power generation sector can be reduced by 46 percent. The forum then gave Worldwatch an opportunity to demonstrate for high-level decision makers in the energy industry what it sees as important short, medium, and long-term actions that can be taken to begin achieving these targets.
These targets are in line with the strong action taken by CARICOM member states in recent months. As many participants pointed out throughout the day, CARICOM is one of the few regions to accept a long-term target related to renewable energy and a regional energy policy. Achieving the targets, however, will not be without serious challenges. To date, CARICOM member states have recognized the need to increase energy efficiency and utilize more sustainable resources. Nevertheless, efforts to do so have been inconsistent, unfocused, and uncoordinated across the region. Progress has therefore been slow and renewable energy currently comprises around 8 percent of the region’s power generation portfolio despite having some of the world’s strongest renewable resource potential.
Another challenge will be maintaining the momentum necessary to address prioritized “next steps.” Our report points out that specific data gaps exist that, once filled, can help inform an even more thorough strategy for achieving regional goals. While CARICOM member states have been active in collecting data related to the electricity sector, information on the transportation sector, carbon dioxide emissions, and energy end-user breakdown is severely lacking. Also missing is an assessment of the effectiveness of already implemented policies developed to spur renewable energy development in Caribbean countries.
Beyond policy, if certain technological barriers are overcome, some CARICOM member states will be able to generate 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources in addition to having enough excess renewable electricity to power other islands as well, allowing those islands to also benefit from of an electricity system that does not depend on expensive and polluting fossil fuels. This would be a meaningful accomplishment for a region that is more than 90 percent reliant on fossil fuel imports, pays some of the highest electricity prices in the world, and suffers disproportionately from climate change. It would also cement the region’s position as a global leader in effectively meeting today’s energy challenges, and it could rally larger countries, some of whom have more resources, to try and keep up.