Caribbean in need of billions to fund solar energy transition – Pres. Ali

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Though Caribbean countries are keen on using more renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali lamented that the countries do not possess the much-needed funds to do so just yet.

As such, he urged policymakers and advisors across the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region to be realistic about renewable energy ambitions and consider that countries may have to exploit resources like natural gas to facilitate the energy transition.

The President made these remarks on Thursday at a key regional meeting of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown.

Harnessing energy from the sun is touted as a key measure to help countries move away from using harmful fossil fuels like oil. These fossil fuels harm the environment and contribute to the climate crisis.

At this one-day meeting hosted in Guyana, regional stakeholders are expected to discuss the potential for more solar energy projects in LAC. The investments needed to facilitate those projects are a key focus too.

“We’re here for serious discussions and we are here to discuss the realities that countries face,” President Ali said.

The renewable energy market in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Head of State said, is about US$16 billion. But some US$11 billion is needed over a 10-year period to achieve the renewable energy targets that countries eye and unlock the energy potential of the region.

 Solar energy is one component of the regional renewable energy framework that promises to slash the regional fuel import bill significantly and reduce countries’ harmful gas emissions.

Even so, President Ali said it would be naive for leaders to champion more solar energy in the region without first acknowledging the cost of technology and implementation.

It would also be remiss of countries to ignore other beneficial resources, he reasoned too.

Abundant natural gas resources in Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Brazil, he said, offer a good example of how existing resources can be harnessed.

And these natural resources can potentially generate larger volumes of power to meet developing countries’ demands. In Guyana, it is envisioned that this resource will be used to fuel large-scale industrial and manufacturing initiatives.

Though affirming Guyana’s and the wider Caribbean’s commitment to the green energy transition, President Ali said that practical solutions must be found.

“We have to find answers but let those answers be based on the reality that we face.

“Let’s not focus on the theoretical,” he said.

ISA Director General Ajay Mathur said that solar energy is among the preferred renewable energy options for countries but acknowledged that there are varying complexities to consider.

Over the coming years, Caribbean states have committed to meeting their energy needs by harnessing more renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydropower instead of the long-standing dependence on harmful fossil fuels.

Guyana’s electricity demand, for example, will triple in the next few years and the government is looking to meet the challenge, not by burning more diesel and heavy oil, but through natural gas and hydropower as per its update Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

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