Grenada’s Prime Minister is high in praise for an initiative by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to increase the awareness of and deployment of renewable energy technology.
Speaking at the recent launch of the Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge, Dr Mitchell said the initiative marks the start of a significant journey for OECS member states. According to the Prime Minister, the solar challenge takes on added significance because of the region’s vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. This, he said, necessitates building resilience into development strategies.
He said, “The uniqueness of this particular era of development, marked significantly by the Covid-19 pandemic, further underscores the urgent need for resilience. The Caribbean people are already well-endowed with the spirit of resilience, given our innate ability to survive and thrive, even in adversity. We now need to entrench that resilience into the development process, to hopefully reduce the impact of future external shocks.”
Dr Mitchell noted that, “When faced with challenges like we are now with the ongoing pandemic, we need to resort to innovation and ingenuity, to leapfrog through the hurdles, and continue to forge ahead with development.”
According to the Prime Minister, even before the pandemic added a layer of complexity to the region’s development challenges, the unprecedented warming of the global climate posed a direct threat to the Caribbean, a threat that necessitates reduced dependence on fossil fuels. He noted that, “The power generation sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, therefore any serious attempt at reducing carbon emissions must include initiatives in that sector. We have already created several international frameworks that seek to address the level of carbon emissions, so we must now drive the implementation process.”
Sharing the Grenada experience, the Prime Minister said Government must play a decisive role in determining the energy mix and the development profile of the country. “As a critical partner, the utility company must be prepared to periodically adjust its business model to be consistent with the trajectory of 100% power generation from renewable energy sources by 2050,” he said. He cited the existence of significant opportunities to advance the goal of more renewable energy sources given substantial advances in solar innovation technology and the accompanying reduction in costs.
Dr Mitchell added, “The solar challenge is premised on the reality that the energy future of the Eastern Caribbean must be constructed on a solid bedrock of indigenous renewable energy that is not subject to the vagaries of the global energy market. It recognises that solar electricity, which was once considered an expensive novelty, is now accepted as a mature and cost-competitive technology.”
The challenge he said, can be considered “the greatest opportunity for us in the region, to contribute to addressing the climate change problem, to ensure that global average temperatures remain below 1.5º Celsius.”
He noted too that the initiative is quite timely. “It is deliberately simple in design, but far-reaching in its potential to impact the social and economic fabric of our society. This homegrown, region-driven initiative seeks the participation of everyone: governments, the private sector, development partners, and households across the OECS.”
The Prime Minister said, while governments set the policy agenda, there is need for greater collaboration in realising the actual benefits of reduced reliance on fossil fuels. “Governments cannot do this alone. We need the support and participation of our external partners, and the full engagement of the business community, the financial sector, civil society, and private citizens. Electric utility companies across the region, which have long shouldered the responsibility for powering our societies and economies, must fully embrace the exciting new energy future that awaits. We all have a part to play in greening our respective economies.”
Dr Mitchell also underscored the need for appropriate policies, and enabling legislative and fiscal measures to green the public sector.
The Eastern Caribbean Solar Challenge, according to promotional material from the OECS, “aims to engage governments, the private sector, development partners, and households in a united effort to increase the diffusion of solar electricity and heating across the region by the end of 2023, in the first instance”.