President Irfaan Ali said that policymakers across Latin America and the Caribbean must consider the realities of the transition to renewable energy.
He underlined key points for the group’s consideration, including the cost of filling the existing gap and sustainability.
The President highlighted these important considerations during the feature address at the opening ceremony of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Fourth Regional Committee Meeting for the Latin America and Caribbean Region on Thursday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
Importantly he added, is the ability of member states to demonstrate from a financial and economic model that any singular transition application is sustainable in the long run.
“Let us use these forums to advance those discussions because the discussions need to be holistic. It cannot be singular. It cannot be narrow. Otherwise, we will be achieving short-term goals, and we will not be finding long-term solutions for sustainable development and sustainable energy supply.”
FINANCING THE TRANSITION
President Ali reiterated that while the Caribbean region is progressing to low carbon and climate resilient, sustainable path, natural assets must be deployed for the advancement of the people and to raise the financing necessary for adaptation and mitigation.
“Let’s face it. We are nowhere close of even meeting 5% of the adaptation and mitigation costs for the developing world. Who’s going to finance it? There is no clear pathway where that financing is coming from. Loans are not a sustainable answer, especially when it’s variable interest rate loans.”
He emphasised that no country that wants to accomplish a sustainable development path can do so without understanding that there must be an overall and realistic plan for achieving renewable energy.
UNDERSTANDING THE REALITIES
On this note, President Ali pointed to the need for serious discussions and to have an understanding of the realities that countries face and how technologies can be developed and transferred.
“How affordable is solar energy? Who is it affordable for? Who owns the technology? Why is the technology so important today? Is solar energy a market-driven force, or is it a social good? How do we determine that? How do we apply the technology? Who owns the patent? These are important questions that the developing world must sit down and answer also. Who is going to carry the recurring cost? What is the recurring cost? What is the impact of the recurring cost on our national budget, and is there an economic modelling that can make it viable?”
He added that Barbados offers an excellent example in demonstrating how to develop an economic model that can be viable at the household and national levels which can be replicated. These discussions, he said, will help in advancing the argument for solar energy.
“These are the things that would give the conference an outcome that is not idealistically wedged to solar energy alone, but it’s wedged to a complete energy platform, and then show how solar energy might be the best possible long-term option for the Caribbean region. I just want to put that as a suggestion.”
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY MARKET OPPORTUNITY
The President told the gathering that CARICOM has an opportunity to create a renewable energy hub, which can also be advanced to Brazil.
He explained that the renewable energy market in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is estimated at US$16 billion. However, some US$11 billion is needed over 10 years to achieve the renewable energy targets and unlock the region’s energy potential.
“This is the reality when we talk about moving to renewables. That is the investment that is required over the next ten years ….”
The region, he reminded, committed that 47% of power will come from renewable sources by 2027, which raises the question of how this will be achieved.
He pointed to the region’s potential to produce energy from not only solar but wind, biomass, and hydrogen. The President also pointed to abundant natural gas resources in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Brazil.
“The reality is if hydrogen is the future, and the financial implication is that banks and the international community is willing to finance hydrogen against solar, then, unfortunately, it is the death of solar. This is a reality.” These considerations, he said, are essential in charting the course forward.
While he recommitted to Guyana’s position on the green energy transition, President Ali said that “implementable” and “practical” solutions based on the realities must be the outcome of the discussions.
Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) the Honourable Mark Phillips provided an overview of Guyana’s transition to solar energy.
Several other cabinet ministers and government officials, and respective ministers from various the Caribbean and Latin American countries were also at the event.
The ISA is a member-driven, collaborative platform aimed at increasing the deployment of solar energy technologies to enhance energy access, ensure energy security, and drive energy transition in its member countries.
The alliance aims to deploy solar energy solutions, thereby contributing to the reduction of global carbon emissions.
The alliance currently has 101 signatory countries and 80 full members, including Guyana. Guyana is serving as Vice President of ISA Latin America and Caribbean Region for 2022.