PM Douglas tells the Caribbean green energy is the destination and there is no turning back

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER 14TH 2012 (CUOPM) – Over 150 Caribbean participants along with top level diplomats from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland and the United Nations have been told that no matter the area of focus – whether it is foreign policy, national security, telecommunications – they all rely and depend on, and indeed they all absolutely must have energy.

St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas cuts the ribbon to declare the exhibition at the Third Caribbean Sustainable Energy Form (CSEFIII) and Exhibition open. (Left is St. Kitts and Nevis’ Energy Minister, the Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin; St. Kitts and Nevis’ Governor General, His Excellency Dr. Sir Cuthbert Sebastian; PM Douglas; CARICOM’s Trade Officer at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Desiree Field-Ridley and Finland’s Ambassador to St. Kitts and Nevis and the Caribbean, His Excellency Mikko Pyhala.

“We are here because energy is a twenty-first century obsession for governments everywhere. Wars are being fought over it. Geo-strategic partnerships are based on, sustained by, and broken apart, because of it. And so, every nation understands the importance of reducing its vulnerability in this regard. Every nation realizes the urgency of finding ways to expand its options, secure its access and reduce its dependency where energy is concerned. St. Kitts and Nevis certainly understands this. And so do our neighbours throughout the region,” said St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas as he delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of the Third Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum and Exhibition at the St. Kitts Marriot Resort on Thursday.

Dr. Douglas noted that one is often told that large countries often have an advantage because of their size but while that is true, size can also have its advantages where small nations are concerned, because sometimes when one is tiny, one can develop a certain alertness and instinct to think ahead and protect oneself.

“This has certainly been the case where St. Kits and Nevis is concerned, and so, as the smallest nation in the western hemisphere, we place a great deal of emphasis on in-depth planning and meticulous follow-through in all areas, but especially where finite fossil-fuel supplies, a warming planet, and a volatile world oil market are concerned,” said Dr. Douglas.

Pointing out that as St. Kitts and Nevis celebrate the 29th year as an independent nation, it may be the blinking of an eye in the context of world history.

“But throughout our time in office, my Government has worked tirelessly both to establish and manage a respected and stable democracy, as well as to provide the types of human and infrastructural developments that would enhance our people’s standing and options in this highly technological, and increasingly globalized, age. And each and every one of our strivings and accomplishments has expanded our need for energy,” said the Prime Minister.

Stating that St. Kitts and Nevis must, as a result, find ways to generate energy, Prime Minister Douglas noted that it was just on Tuesday of this week at the 8th Annual National Consultation on the Economy that all participants of the public and private sectors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s), students and other representatives express grave concerns about the high cost of electricity and its effect on businesses and decent and progressive livelihoods of the people in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“And we must do so in a manner that is both cost-effective and reliable. Like much of the region and much of the world, we have for almost a century been wedded to an energy generation model that does not serve our long term interests. Our traditional reliance on foreign-based fossil fuels has left us vulnerable to the vagaries of political currents far from our shores, held us hostage to geo-strategic machinations in which we have no say, and generally caused us to be affected by far too many factors completely beyond our control. The only constant where oil prices are concerned, it seems, is volatility,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

Head Table (left to right) – Finland’s Ambassador to St. Kitts and Nevis and the Caribbean, His Excellency Mikko Pyhala.; St. Kitts and Nevis’ Energy Minister, the Hon. Dr. Earl Asim Martin; St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador the Rt. Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; British High Commisioner to St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, His Excellency Paul Brummer; Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Germany, Mr. Ullrich Kinne; Head of Operations at the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mr. Herbert Perr; CARICOM’s Trade Officer at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Desiree Field-Ridley and Mr. Ernie Stapleton, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources in the Nevis Island Administration.

He noted that St. Kitts and Nevis is in the embrace of an utterly phenomenal energy source – the sun.

“In addition, geography has placed us in the direct path of wonderful trade winds, and our geology has bequeathed to us geothermal sources of power. We are therefore taking the only wise and responsible path open to us: We are moving to develop them all. There is already a wind farm in Nevis, for example. Work continues with OPIC for a similar facility to be established in St. Kitts. And current projections are for us to have access to locally generated geothermal energy in two years,” said Dr. Douglas.

The Prime Minister also told participants that the Republic of China on Taiwan, a friend and ally of long standing is the second largest producer of solar panels in the world.

“As they have in other areas, they have developed a special partnership with us vis-à-vis solar energy – as can be seen in the solar lighting project along both our Kim Collins Highway, as well as a our Frigate Bay Road. I am very pleased that Taiwan’s leading solar panel manufacturers are represented here at the Forum and together with others, they will be available tell you more about their products – and answer any questions you may have – at the Exhibition that has been arranged here for your convenience,” said Dr. Douglas.

He disclosed that by January next year, St. Kitts and Nevis will have the capacity to assemble solar panels here to be exported to the rest of the region.

“Indeed, solar-powered road lightings are just a part of our move toward green energy: Solar panels are currently generating energy for both our Government Headquarters as well as our ITC Center, for example, and they will, from now on, be installed on all newly constructed, affordable homes in the Federation, as a means of controlling the cost of energy for our nation’s families,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.

He said it was not only the Government that is enthusiastic about solar energy and the largest companies have made clear to their determination to move in this direction as well.

“Indeed, they have already officially sought – and received – the required authorizations to do so,” said Dr. Douglas who commended them for their enthusiasm, vision, and leadership in this regard.

He said Caribbean Governments, now more than ever, understand that green energy is the destination – and that there is no turning back.

A section of invited guests and delegates to the Forum.

“That having been said, however, and despite the absolute necessity of moving steadfastly in the direction of renewable energy, there are certain truths that must be faced. For example: Even though prices may be declining for some technologies, renewable energy technologies are still not cheap to implement. There remains a pressing need for capital, for financing, for technical support. And because of the newness of this area, we – as Governments, as businesses, as specialists, as analysts – must indeed do everything in our power to ensure than costly mistakes are avoided. Let us be wise, circumspect, and discerning as we move toward these important technologies. And let us – please – let us all undertake the hard work….the meticulous research….the in-depth analysis……that will be necessary if we are to ensure that we fully understand these new technologies and the risks that may be associated with their integration to our systems,” said Dr. Douglas, who added that this requirement for circumspection and discernment is not unique and it was incumbent upon all nations large or small so to do.

“This is simply what responsible Governance and responsible management – anywhere and everywhere – demand,” said Dr. Douglas, who noted that the forum will be paying particular attention to the integration of regional energy systems. which is of particular importance to island-states.

“And the geothermal project in Nevis as it relates to other OECS member-states, I know, will be of special interest and relevance in that regard. I urge that the special challenges of capacity, financing and intergovernmental cooperation be kept at the forefront of your deliberations, and that proactive and innovative approaches are put forward so as to ensure that the benefits of these developments do indeed redound to our region – and in the shortest possible time,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

“It is of vital importance that focusing only on the technological dimensions of green energy is only a part of our responsibilities. Equally important, if not more so, if we are to truly protect the interest of our peoples and our region, will be the special regulatory framework that must go hand in hand with these technological advances,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who also noted that there is the need for the broad-based education of Caribbean people on the key issues, risks, limitations, and opportunities where green energy is concerned.

“Something as simple as instilling, in the minds of our nationals, the habit of unplugging appliances when not in use, could have a dramatic impact on energy consumption and expenditures in our respective countries. This and other straightforward, but important, means of “turning our people on” to energy conservation must be made priorities,” said Dr. Douglas, who said that the Forum was special as it captures the depth and breadth of all that we are called upon to do where our embrace of renewable energy sources is concerned.”

“At the same time that we must identify innovative and engaging ways to educate and involve our respective populations at the micro level, so too must we, as a region, simultaneously engage the international community at the macro level, in order to establish those key partnerships that would allow us to derive from this moment, and from these opportunities, the benefits that our people so richly deserve. Because – let us not forget – our movement toward green energy will not only save scarce financial resources that could be far better used domestically, but this shift will also lead to the issuing in of a new and dynamic energy sector – with new and dynamic opportunities for both business development as well as job creation,” said Dr. Douglas.

He said over the next two days, there will be a thorough weighing of the various options.

“There will be a careful assessment of the costs and benefits associated with various courses of action. And there will, at the end, be light – hopefully a flood-light, and a solar powered one at that – as to the way forward. Among your varied areas of focus will be the promise of geothermal energy, possible funding mechanisms, systems integration, the challenge of access – all very, very important,” said Dr. Douglas.

“Your deliberations, the papers of your experts, your recommendations regarding both geothermal energy as well as energy-efficiency enhancement, will, of course, be recorded, and your recommendations studied as we move forward with the development of a regional action plan. The work of the next two days, the time and energy that you will invest in making this Forum a success, are of significant import to the region,” said Prime Minister Douglas.

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