OECS Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capacity Building And Dialogue for Planning Professionals

Opening Remarks by the Honorable Asot Michael at the OECS Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Capacity Building And Dialogue for Planning Professionals, Halcyon Cove Hotel Antigua and Barbuda, 9-11 May 2017

  • Master of Ceremonies
  • Distinguished representatives from OECS Member States
  • Representatives of the OECS Commission
  • Ladies and gentlemen

It is a pleasure to welcome you all to Antigua and Barbuda and specifically to this Dialogue sponsored by the OECS Commission, with support from a number of its international partners, on renewable energy and energy efficiency for planning professionals being held here at the beautiful and historic Dickenson’s Bay.

Many of you would not be aware, but the instruments for signing the CARICOM Treaty were first signed here at Dickenson Bay back in the early 1970s by what came to be known as the three B’s – Errol Barrow of Barbados, VC Bird of Antigua (as it was then called), and Forbes Burnham of Guyana. So your gathering here today is in an historic space where the roots of regional integration run deep.

As evident from the above Antigua and Barbuda has long been an ardent advocate or regional integration and cooperation. In addition to CARICOM we were founding members of the OECS and remain committed to the principles and objectives of that body as micro-States in an increasingly hostile international political, economic and ecological environment.

We welcome the decision of the OECS Commission to hold this dialogue on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Antigua and Barbuda.

We have made important steps in the transition towards a cleaner energy sector. In 2015, in one of its first legislative moves, the Gaston Browne led administration became the first country in the OECS to adopt renewable energy legislation. This was the Renewable Act 2015, based on a draft developed by the OECS with funding from the CDB.

The 2015 Act is intended to encourage the adoption of renewable energy technologies and among other things establishes mechanisms for consultation between the Ministry of Energy and the electric utility on various issues affecting the sector. These include establishing levels of penetration, rates to be paid for distributed energy, and administrative procedures.

Concurrent with this we have moved aggressively with the introduction of a 10Mw utility scale solar photovoltaic project, partnering with UK and German financiers and technology providers. This involves establishing two solar farms of three and four megawatts, as well as two megawatts distributed across various government facilities and buildings, and possibly one megawatt for Barbuda.

Upon completion of this project later this year, 20% of our peak demand capacity will exist in renewable energy in this case solar energy. This is an extremely high proportion and so our government is also investing in battery storage technology aimed at ensuring the stability of our electricity grid.

From an environmental perspective, our existing operational facility at the VC Bird International Airport displaces over 3,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Interestingly we have also found a strong linkage with our important agricultural sector, with the solar farms providing ideal locations for sheep rearing, again pointing to the green direction in which the administration is keen to go.

Taken together the administration’s direct investment in renewable energy will amount to over US$30m, financed almost entirely through our citizenship by investment program. This represents, as far as we are aware the first such use of any such program, certainly in the Caribbean.

At the distributed level, we estimate that we already have over 1MW of solar energy spread across various residential and commercial properties.

We have benefited from technical assistance from UN IRENA in preparation of a grid stability study and this points out that with important technology upgrades and enhancements, the electricity grid is capable of taking over 30% renewables penetration. This is an ambitious target but certainly indicates the possibility for ensuring that ordinary citizens of Antigua and Barbuda are able to benefit from technologies allowing us to harness our natural resources of sun and wind for our nation’s development.

Antigua and Barbuda has received funding of US$15m for promoting climate resilience through adoption of renewable energy in a project being managed by the Ministry of Health and the Environment.

The government also has plans to transform our sister island of Barbuda into possibly the first community in the region to be 100% dependent on renewable sources for its electricity generation. In fact just last week we met with a representative of the Masdar corporation of the United Arab Emirates as we attempt to access funding from the US$50m project which the UAE has announced for the Caribbean.

Energy efficiency is also receiving the government’s attention and we have just concluded arrangements with the CDB for a project which will install LED lights on all of the country’s street-lights. However, significant more effort and work needs to be concentrated in encouraging and promoting energy efficiency as this is an area where savings can be quickly achieved. We welcome therefore the OECS Commission’s efforts in advancing energy efficiency as a cornerstone of physical and development planning.

We welcome the continuing interest of our development partners in the critical field of sustainable energy. We look forward to continuing to work with them, not only at the level of technical assistance but also in going to the next stage of providing investment support for clean energy development in our region.

Finally, let me welcome you all once again to Antigua and Barbuda. We await the outputs of the exchange of ideas and experiences that will take place over the next few days. This is important in broadening the perspectives of persons, something which is critical in today’s fast moving world where persons need to be aware of technologies, policies and measures activities taking place in other sectors and disciplines.

We hope that the outputs lead to concrete actions and measures that will result in furthering our goal of sustainable development for our people.

Thank you.