EmPowering Our Sustainable Development – CARICOM ENERGY WEEK 2015

REMARKS BY THE HONORABLE ASOT MICHAEL, MINISTER OF TOURISM, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, INETSMENT AND ENERGY TO MARK CARICOM ENERGY WEEK 2015

Dear citizens and residents of Antigua and Barbuda, friends on the world-wide web, ladies and gentlemen, and particularly the youth of Antigua and Barbuda;

It gives me special pleasure to extend remarks on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy, and by extension the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, for CARICOM Energy Week 2015.

This year signifies this regional events fifth anniversary and the theme adopted for the region this year is “EmPowering our Sustainable Development”, emphasizing the link between energy and sustainable development.

This year’s theme is particularly appropriate for Antigua and Barbuda as the Gaston Browne led administration seeks to make good on its campaign commitments to develop Antigua and Barbuda’s renewable energy potential and in general to improve the delivery of energy services to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

In relation to renewable energy, the government has embarked, through the Ministry of Energy and APUA, on a 10MW solar photovoltaics project for Antigua and Barbuda. Construction on the first phase of the project, a 3 megawatt (MW) solar farm at the south western boundary of the VC Bird International Airport, is completed and the installation will shortly be interconnected to the grid. Other phases involve the placement of 2MW of solar power on various government buildings across the island, the establishment of a 4MW site in the south of the country, and installation of up to 1MW of solar power in Barbuda. The 3MW site already constitutes the largest solar power facility in the OECS.

The project is intended to reduce the government’s requirement on APUA for fossil fueled powered electricity, resulting in considerable savings in foreign exchange payments for oil, reducing Antigua and Barbuda’s contribution of greenhouse gas emissions, and leading ultimately to an overall reduction in the cost of electricity in Antigua and Barbuda. Other components of the program include hands-on on-site and international training for APUA technicians, equipment required for enabling the interconnection of the renewable energy into the APUA grid including battery storage, and on site operations and maintenance oversight for a two year period.

In addition to this major initiative the Government is also working to advance its program for transforming the energy sector in other critical areas as an element of establishing Antigua and Barbuda as a centre for economic growth in the eastern Caribbean.  A critical move in this regard has, of course, been the recent acquisition of the West Indies Oil Company allowing government, in cooperation with our international partners, to identify and exploit niche areas in the regional market.

At the institutional level, the Government has begun the process of establishing a strengthened energy capability within the Ministry responsible for Energy with the aim of allowing the Ministry to serve as a catalyst for clean energy and low carbon development in Antigua and Barbuda.

A major development at the policy and institutional level has also been our Government’s enactment of the Renewable Energy Act, one of the first pieces of legislation adopted by this administration, demonstrating our strong commitment to development of our indigenous renewable energy resources. The RE Act establishes renewable energy as falling outside of the monopoly which APUA enjoys for electricity generation and distribution in Antigua and Barbuda, and provides for the Ministry of Energy to establish mechanisms and rates for electricity generated from renewable sources, working alongside APUA, and with the overall objective of promoting renewable energy development in Antigua and Barbuda.

Energy efficiency must also be a cornerstone of our efforts to achieve a sustainable energy future. This represents the proverbial low hanging fruit for moving towards sustainable energy and requires commitment at all levels to identify and exploit opportunities for energy conservation and more efficient use of existing energy. As the largest single electricity consumer, the government has a particular responsibility to take action in this matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the next few weeks heads of government and captains of industry from around the world will gather in Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference. Energy will be at the centerpiece of these negotiations as the global community tries to address the challenges posed to development from a rapidly changing climate with the adverse changes in our climate being ,driven largely by unsustainable burning of fossil fuels. Countries, including small developing countries like Antigua and Barbuda, will be expected to agree on binding targets for energy use which allow for low carbon economic growth while preserving our Earth’s delicate ecology.

Against that background, we in Antigua and Barbuda must move proactively to embrace new and innovative mechanisms for sustainable energy practices and policies. In that regard, I am particularly pleased with the program of activities which the team in our Ministry has put together to commemorate this year’s CARICOM Energy Week. The activities focus largely on awareness building with an emphasis on the youth, including the transfer of skills in new and emerging renewable energy technologies. Other programs include regional app, video and photo competitions, and a fitness walk for staff from the various government offices including a short tour of the 3MW site on the airport road. All in all, the activities are intended, building on the CARICOM theme of “EmPowerment”, to highlight the actions planned and underway to advance our transition towards more sustainable approaches to our energy requirements and demands.

I hope that this week’s activities will serve to increase awareness of the potential which exists in Antigua and Barbuda for improving our usage of energy, whether through energy conservation or renewable energy applications. This transition will be critical if we are to remain relevant in a changing national, regional and international energy landscape.

We look forward to the public’s full participation in this year’s Energy Week events and my Ministry stands ready to assist and support all bona fide and viable energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts and projects as we pursue the 2015 CARICOM Energy Week theme of “EmPowering our sustainable development”.

Thank you.