The Organization of American States (OAS) teamed up with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to organize a Caribbean Regional Sustainable Energy High Level Seminar, where measures to increase energy sector sustainability while combating the rising costs of energy resources were identified.
Ministers and senior authorities from the Caribbean Region, representatives from the United States government and other key energy stakeholders from around the globe met in Nassau, Bahamas, to address key challenges in the energy sector in the region. Official delegations from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago attended the event.
OAS Assistant Secretary General, Albert Ramdin, accompanied by Earl Deveaux, Bahamas’ Minister of Environment, Ned Siegel, Ambassador of the United States to the Bahamas, and Oscar Spencer, Representative for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), inaugurated the event highlighting the urgency to find solutions to the growing energy challenges throughout the Caribbean.
Ramdin emphasized the importance of the seminar in helping the Caribbean region to prepare a common sustainable energy strategy to address the social and economic problems associated with soaring petroleum prices and to reduce its high dependence on imported fuels. In 2004, he noted, “the Caribbean region imported about 163 million barrels of oil at a cost of 6.5 billion dollars. At current crude oil rates, the same amount of petroleum will cost our countries more than 24 billion dollars if we take into account growth in energy demand.” Also, “energy costs have risen by 370% in less than four years,” explained the Assistant Secretary General.
Minister Deveaux highlighted several of the alternative energy options that may be pursued in the Bahamas to help reduce the negative impacts of rising oil prices on his nation’s economy. For example, he suggested that “replacing four 60 watt incandescent bulbs with four 13 watt compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) in 80,000 households would reduce annual fuel consumption by almost 44,000 barrels. This would yield an average annual savings of $2 million.” Further, he added that “the replacement of 80,000 water heaters with solar water heaters would result in a reduction of annual fuel consumption by 175,000 barrels, yielding an annual savings of about $9 million.”
In his address, Ambassador Siegel stressed the willingness of the government of the United States to support the promotion of sustainable energy initiatives in the region. According to Ambassador Siegel, “the U.S. government is committed to working with the countries of the Caribbean and the many donors and other organizations to find practical solutions for building a sustainable energy future in the region.” It is with this objective in mind, he added, “that the U.S. State Department has organized a complimentary business roundtable on opportunities in the renewable energy sector,” which will be held at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort on July 24th, 2008.
During the seminar, the newly established Caribbean Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Bioenergy Action Programme (CREBAP) was promoted by several speakers as an effective instrument to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency alternatives in the Caribbean region. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishing CREBAP was initially signed on August 6th, 2007 by the OAS, the IDB, the IICA, and the Republic of Guyana. At the conclusion of the seminar a call was made to countries and development partners in the region to join the CREBAP.
Several alternative energy solutions were identified during the seminar to address the burgeoning challenges in the energy sector. These solutions included wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, hydro, and ocean energy technologies. Further, the seminar stressed the importance of maximizing the efficiency of energy production and consumption, while expanding the level of energy integration throughout the Caribbean.
The Bahamas energy seminar was the second in a series of four sub-regional events set to take place throughout the Americas. The first meeting was held at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile, on July 11, 2008.