The American Security Project hosted a half-day conference on Wednesday, February 4th examining energy security in the Caribbean. Nearly 100 experts from academia, International Financial Institutions, the US government, and private corporations attended the conference which consisted of three panels. These panels discussed the current geopolitical landscape of the Caribbean, policy challenges posed to the region, and potential solutions to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels. Introductory remarks were offered by Andrew Holland, ASP’s Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate. He gave a brief overview of the Caribbean’s current energy situation and emphasized the importance of the recent American energy revolution and its role in reducing energy dependence in the region by providing affordable, available alternatives.
The panel was chaired by Dante Disparte, CEO of Risk Cooperative and Adjunct Fellow for ASP.
The final panel delineated the prominent energy issues facing the Caribbean and offered prescriptions for how to deal with these problems. Dr. Natasha Vidangos of the US State Department opened optimistically:
“The US cares a lot about prosperity in the Caribbean.”
Dr. Vidangos reaffirmed US commitment to achieving this prosperity, recalling the statements made by Vice President Biden last week. The US has an opportunity to use the energy revolution to help the Caribbean break from energy dependence. She placed heavy emphasis on the positive effects of public-private partnerships like the Blue Mountain Renewables in Jamaica.
Private corporations are also taking the lead on providing cleaner, affordable energy to the Caribbean. Luis Humberto Berrios, Vice President of Tropigas Puerto Rico, reaffirmed this commitment, stating that “the best way to bring about social and economic change is through low energy costs.” He goes on to mention the access to new forms of fuel created by the shale gas revolution, suggesting we “don’t look just at LNG, but other fuel sources as well.” These alternative sources are cheaper to produce and could provide returns on investments in as little as 120 days.
Chris Burgess of Carbon War Room echoed this sentiment, calling for an increase in tangible, sustainable energy projects. Referring to his organization as “the sharp end of the spear,” Burgess called for an increase of private investment into renewables. This would, Burgess argues, stimulate the islands’ economies and help remove the stigma of fossil fuel dependence. In summation, the panel agreed that any solutions to Caribbean energy security must be a process, not a series of “one-off projects” that produce limited results. This process, according to all panels, begins with US investment in the Caribbean. The energy revolution is happening now, and it’s time to spread the wealth. In closing, Dr. Vidangos summed up the theme of the conference:
“The Caribbean has a one of a kind opportunity here and we hope to help make that happen.”
Special thanks to Tropigas for generously sponsoring this event. View the other Panel reviews here: