Talks

Caribbean energy economy

 By Amanda Saint

A recent report from the World Bank highlights the Caribbean Sea’s potential as an economic powerhouse for nearby small island economies, potentially transforming their prospects through a range of different activities…

The report titled “Toward a Blue Economy: A Promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean” highlights ten principles to guide investments in a Caribbean blue economy. It also provides a framework for the island’s policymakers to develop a range of smart policies along with the measurements needed to track their economic and environmental benefits.

Among the report’s recommendations are eco labels to promote sustainable fishing practices and aquaculture to protect the seas and keep them healthy; offshore wind and other marine renewable energy systems to power the islands without burning fossil fuels; and environmentally friendly coastal hotels that have been optimized for energy efficiency and to carefully manage waste and emissions.

The report also highlights some alarming statistics around current waste management practices, overfishing, and ocean acidification as shown in the infographic. As well as being a tool for generating more prosperity for the island nations of the Caribbean, this report is also a much-needed wake-up call on the state of the sea’s health, which has deteriorated due to population growth, increased tourism and poor waste management planning.

Source: World Bank

Generating sustainable energy

A drive towards a blue economy that incorporates a strategy for generating wind and marine renewable energy could help the Caribbean islands achieve many goals. It may provide energy security, jobs, poverty reduction, greenhouse gas emission reductions and climate change mitigation. All of these elements combined could combine to provide sustainable development that will deliver better environmental and economic health.

In a press statement issued when the report was published in September 2016, Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean, said: “The report highlights the opportunities offered by the Caribbean blue economy and identifies priority areas for action that can generate blue growth and opportunities for all Caribbean people, while ensuring that oceans and marine ecosystems are sustainably managed and used.”

Marine renewable energy is seen by many as a model for transitioning to a blue economy, in that the ocean can be used to provide electricity and create jobs without depleting the natural capital of the sea. This combined with the falling costs of renewable energy projects, means that the report’s authors believe that significant wind and marine renewable energy projects will become viable options for many of the Caribbean islands over the next decade.

Increasing the region’s renewable energy supply will also enable it to cut costs drastically. At present, 90 percent of the energy consumed in the Caribbean is generated from imported oil and costs vary between islands, ranging from $0.20 to $0.50/kwh. An example used in the report to highlight how energy costs can be cut through renewable energy is Bonaire, where a diesel power plant destroyed by fire in 2004 was replaced by 12 wind turbines with a total of 11 MW of wind power capacity (with batteries and an additional 14 MW of diesel generation for peak loads and low wind in place as back-up). The price of electricity in Bonaire has since dropped from $0.50 per kwh to $0.22 per kwh.

SEE MORE: Carribbean solar power by Andrew Burger

The report’s authors have devised key priorities to help countries develop a sustainable blue economy and broaden opportunities for the Caribbean people, while also improving ocean health and moving towards energy independence. Read them in full in here, but in summary they are to:

  • Strengthen regional and national policies to better coordinate and monitor coastal and ocean management across sectors such as fisheries, tourism, transport, energy and environment.
  • Implement smart policies to promote a healthy, resilient and productive marine environment, as well as build resilient infrastructure.
  • Promote investment in blue economy enterprises through start-up finance for better capacity and technology development to support small blue economy businesses and generate ‘blue jobs,’ particularly in the renewable energy sector.
  • Raising awareness about the blue economy to identify future skill needs and develop educational and vocational training to meet this demand.

The ocean covers more than 72 percent of the earth and according to World Bank figures, the marine sector is responsible for providing more than 350 million jobs worldwide and is a significant driver of global GDP. The report proposes that the blue economy blueprint developed for the Caribbean can be used as a springboard for developing more blue economies around the world, specifically in low- and middle-income island nations and countries with significant coastlines.

SEE MORE: CHINA’S RENEWABLE REVOLUTION by Nicholas Newman

about the author
Amanda Saint
Journalist and content writer, specialised in engineering and technology with a focus on environmental sustainability, urbanisation and biotechnology.