COVID-19 has devastated tourism-based, import-dependent economies across the Caribbean. For example, in just one day, Saint Lucia lost 13,000 jobs - approximately 7 percent of the total population and 16 percent of the total labour force, which is estimated at 79,700. Some Caribbean power utilities reported a 50–60 percent loss in electrical load in March alone, a clear indicator that the economy is depressed.
Recovery from such devastation may be slow but it can also be revolutionary. Of the fifteen Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States,2 seven have energy access deficits, with Haiti having the largest deficit. Of the seven, four are expected to close the gaps by 2030 if they continue to deliver access to energy at the current rate of improvement.
The Caribbean power sector is characterized by its heavy dependence on imported fossil fuel that results in some of the highest electricity costs in the world. One of the biggest sustainable energy challenges for the Caribbean region is to transition from fossil fuel based economies to cleaner, more resilient and more abundant energy resources. By increasing the percentage of renewable energy in their energy mix, Caribbean countries have an opportunity to also increase their energy resilience and security.
In addition to their high costs for electricity, the predominantly centralized electricity systems in the Caribbean have shown themselves to be weak during hurricanes seasons and other extreme weather events with devastating effects. For example, two months after Hurricane Irma struck Puerto Rico in 2017, more than half the population still had no access to electricity. Off-grid systems, such as solar based mini-grids, can keep communities’ lights on when the centralized system fails and ensure delivery of critical services, including for health facilities. This sustainable energy guide highlights the opportunities, benefits and enablers that will help leaders guide their countries onto a sustainable long-term development trajectory. Furthermore, delivering sustainable energy for all paves the way for Caribbean countries to recover better while building resilient.