|Former Venezuelan President Mr. Hugo Chávez|
The recent death of Venezuelan President Mr. Hugo Chávez has sparked concerns across the Caribbean and Latin America Energy sectors. It has been forecast that cheap Venezuelan oil which once flooded our shores are no longer expected to at the rate it did during Mr. Chávez ‘s 14 year tenure under the PetroCaribe deal. The agreement which was initiated in 2005 provided more than a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean with oil and requiring only 5%-50% of the market value to be paid up front; the remainder can be paid through a 17-25 year financing agreement with 1% interest . Last year, Jamaica’s energy bill was US$2.6 billion, an increase of US$200m over the previous year. Without the PetroCaribe agreement another US$600m increase can be expected on Jamaica’s oil import bill each year to finance oil importation from another nation .
It is never my intention to highlight a problem without presenting a practical solution. Now more than ever Jamaica and the Caribbean needs to diversify its energy sources and an Offshore Wind Farm is the most suitable alternative at this point, capable of reliably supplying Renewable Energy to our islands. Not only will this aid our economy and manufacturing industry by allowing consumers pay less for electricity monthly but this will also reduce oil importation and our lifeline dependency on the imported commodity. The Caribbean need to Put the Wind to work and reduce energy generation from old, inefficient, costly fossil fuel plants. Liquified Natural Gas or LNG is by no means the solution! Jamaica does not have the gas needed to power an Natural Gas power plant, this option will only redirect us to our importation past. We need a solution that looks beyond the next 3 years, we need a solution that will power our country and move our economy forward. Wind turbines on the other hand and not just any wind turbine but wind turbines in the sea will produce consistent, reliable power for residents and factories from the vast amount of wind blowing across the Caribbean sea. 100%Renewable Jamaica is a feasible goal which our island needs to start working towards intensively since Jamaica is considered one of the most expensive and inefficient energy producer in the region.
|Columbus Network, Caribbean Connection. Solar and Wind Energy should be interconnected to reduce cost and increase reliability|
Exporting Electricity, building the Caribbean
The close proximity between Caribbean countries makes energy transfer a viable market for large producers. Utilizing sub-sea connection lines similar to those employed in the telecommunication industry, energy can be transmitted from one island to the other in a hearbeat. This is a great market for Jamaica if we position our selves appropriately and considering the fact that Cuba, one of the most dependent nations on PetroCaribe, is less than 150 km from Jamaica’s north coast. If Jamaica is serious about nation building, a major source of income for our country could be realized by peppering the sea with wind turbines and exporting energy to Cuba who would be more than willing to purchase all the energy we can provide to offset the impact of a failed PetroCaribe agreement. Jamaica stands to earn millions annually by exporting renewable energy to neighboring islands. The basic economics for setting up an offshore wind farm and the payback from such a venture can be found in the article: Funding an offshore wind farm.
|The Caribbean can stop importing oil for electricity generation if we integrate renewable energy plant|
Interconnecting renewable energy sites across the Caribbean will increase the reliability of such systems. Consider a solar plant in Guyana, interconnected with an offshore wind farm in Jamaica, a Waste-to-Energy plant in Trinidad and Tobago and a Hydro plant in Antigua. The diversity in locations provides a 3 fold increase in the reliability of the supply thus highly improbable that wind will stop blowing in Jamaica, sun stop shining in Guyana and water stop flowing in Antigua and garbage not being collected in Barbados and all happening simultaneously. The islands will also be able to capitalize on mass generation which will further lower the cost of energy. This Caribbean integrated Renewable Energy approach will significantly drive the cost of energy down to about 10-15 cents per kilo watt from the average 30 cent per kilo watt across the region (40 cent in Jamaica).
What PetroCaribe did and has been doing for the past eight years is something that the Caribbean can do for itself using renewable energy. The greater the production capacity of a wind farm or a solar plant the cheaper the resultant cost per kilo watt becomes. Should Mr. Chávez likely opponent, the more conservative Henrique Capriles take the presidency, the PetroCraibe deal for many could be in jeopardy. Capriles who lost to Chávez in the last election made his opposition to Chevez’s policies of ‘giving away Venezuelan oil’ very clear and something he would discontinue if he should take over the presidency of the country. This is not the appropriate time for the Caribbean to sit and watch patiently for election results or await post-election deliberation on the energy deal. Instead we should be proactive and start preparing for the worst case scenario by getting teams together to prepare a Renewable Energy map for the Caribbean starting today. With under water cables and tunnels currently connecting almost all Caribbean islands for broadband communication, the Caribbean can survive without PetroCaribe if energy integration is seriously and strategically chartered by the islands in the region.