The energy cost in the Caribbean is the highest in the Western Hemisphere and amongst the highest in the world. The cost of energy in various islands range from as low as US$0.20/kwh to as high as US$0.37/kWh. These numbers exclude Trinidad and Tobago, a petroleum producing nation which enjoys an average cost of US$0.05/kWh. These high energy costs provide numerous business opportunities to energy entrepreneurs which to date has not been exploited for a number of reasons.
At the policy level, no CARICOM country has yet passed specific energy efficiency legislation, and at the utility level, there is no legislated requirement to pursue efficiency: the region’s electrical generation and distribution utilities are not mandated to optimize their generation heat rates or to reduce their transmission/distribution losses. Also, utilities are permitted to recover from customers all costs of purchasing imported fuel, regardless of the efficiency of its use.
“Most small Caribbean countries, particularly the Eastern Caribbean States, depend almost entirely on petroleum to supply their electricity needs”
The Caribbean is one of the world’s largest untapped sources of renewable energy, with huge solar, wind, geothermal and marine energy potential. Despite this, most Caribbean nations still use imported diesel or oil to generate more than 90% of their energy. There are no grid connected solar energy sources, while wind, geothermal and hydro sources are grid connected in isolated cases. The following table shows the amount and sources of energy used in selected Caribbean countries.
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The very low maintenance requirements associated with solar PV and water heating systems is an advantage in a region where most necessary materials and components must be imported. Conversely, the high initial investment costs associated with PV installations, coupled with unclear or ad-hoc grid interconnection policies, have been a critical barrier to the widespread adoption of PV in the Caribbean. However, the cost of PV modules has fallen from US$7 per peak Watt (Wp) in the early 1980s to less than $1 per Wp today, and other associated hardware costs are also falling.
Real opportunities now exist for solar entrepreneurs to deliver economically viable, distributed, grid-connected energy supplies to homes and businesses throughout the region.
The market opportunity for solar cooling in the region is just beginning to be recognized and the region’s first commercial solar cooling installation was commissioned in 2012 at the Kingston, Jamaica headquarters of mobile phone company Digicel. It was installed by RED, a Jamaican renewable energy development firm.
Current levels of resource use efficiency in the region are low due to lack of awareness of end users on the impacts of resource use. Resource use efficiency initiatives receive high priority to promoting the sustainable consumption of resources through the reduction of resources utilized within a process and the reduction of waste produced by a process.
Waste-to-energy, materials recovery, reuse, and recycling.
The current and projected impacts on Caribbean water resources due to climate change are decidedly negative. The consensus view, based on the research done about Caribbean climate change impact scenarios, is that the Caribbean will become markedly drier over the long term – rainfall will decline by an annual average of 30% and that that decline will be most significant in the traditional rainy season. Coupled with rising sea levels and higher average temperatures, the projected overall result of these threats is significantly lower levels of water security and an increased need for responsive, innovative water management solutions to provide potable water and water for commercial, industrial and agricultural needs.
Rainwater harvesting - at the individual residence level is well-established in some countries. However, little emphasis is placed on the subsequent treatment and recycling of grey water, for example. This presents opportunities for developing integrated harvesting, efficiency and reuse/recycling systems for maximizing the utilization of water in households.Desalination - The use of desalination as an option for the provision of potable water in the region is growing. St Georges University in Grenada, for example, produces all of the water consumed on its True Blue campus at its desalination plant and desalination is a powerful means of water supply in countries like Barbados. While desalination offers a renewable option for water supply to meet growing demands, particularly for island countries, it also has high economic, environmental, and energy costs – for example, the extensive use of desalination may increase fossil fuel dependence and GHG emissions. Demonstrating a way to avoid this, a 2011 World Bank Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines 29 has installed 75.9 kWp of solar photovoltaics to power a ‘carbon neutral, reverse osmosis desalination plant’ that supplies water to the coastal village of Paget Farm. The PV system was installed by Grenada Solar Power Ltd (Grensol) and Juwi Solar Power GmbH of Wörrstadt, Germany.
Potable Water - One of the growing potable water trends in the region – the increasing use of bottled water for personal consumption - is not sustainable in the long-term. Much of the product is imported, the production process is energy and water-intensive, and container waste disposal and recycling mechanisms are not in widespread use. This opens up opportunities for innovation to make an impact.
Irrigation - Irrigation is an underutilized practice in the region, but has been identified as a vital part of the climate adaptation response. Therefore, the design and development of irrigation systems that optimize the harvesting and use of ground, surface and rainfall resources, and incorporating recycling and reuse, will be important aspects of providing sustainable water supplies for agriculture. As water resources become scarcer real opportunities will be presented to innovators and entrepreneurs in the sector.
Though its contribution to national economies has dwindled over the past fifteen years, agriculture is of vital importance to the region. In more recent years, the issue of food insecurity, in the context of dramatic escalations in international energy, commodity, and food prices coupled with a global economic downturn, has raised the issue of agriculture on national agendas. Caribbean countries were particularly vulnerable due to their high reliance on imported food. There is an urgent need to plan for and implement a new approach to agriculture in the region which embraces sustainability, innovation, and an entrepreneurial drive.There exists significant potential to foster the growth of a competitive agribusiness industry through technology and marketing innovation, including: new climate resilient crops and seeds, water/energy efficient machinery and equipment, water/energy efficient irrigation systems, climate-friendly/energy efficient food processing, bio-pesticides and fertilizers, waste management, livestock and byproduct management, afforestation and sustainable land use practices.
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