Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation (CARILEC) Executive Director Allison A. Jean will attend a major conference and annual general meeting for chief executive officers and corporate communicators within CARILEC-member countries in Saint Thomas next week.
That forum will include sessions on leadership, finance, management and the transition of the electricity sector in member states from their dependence on fossil fuel to other forms of renewable energy.
Speaking to Saint Lucia News Online on Wednesday, May 14, Jean said extensive research and discussions are taking place with regard to alternative forms of energy within CARILEC countries, as the effects of climate change increase and the need to reduce carbon emissions.
There has also been a decreased dependence on fossil fuels for power generation among member states, and globally.
She said that while most member states have embraced the idea of moving to other forms of energy generation, the cost of such ventures can be a major drawback.
“The members embrace the transition but… the transition is challenging because the electricity sector is much different to the other utilities. You have a high capital intensive investment and you have a lot of engines, generators, and equipment. So making the transition to renewable energy requires new capital injection, extra finances, more money, and that itself is a challenge to the utilities,” she said, adding however that, “recognizing the need for change because of the issues that we see confronting us, member utilities embrace that change and are trying to see how best they can make the transition without having drastic or detrimental effects on the utility itself.”
According to the executive director, having the appropriate legislative framework for regulating the sector is of utmost importance for the transition. This legislature will govern how energy providers behave in providing the service and would apply to both existing and potential energy producers.
“So one of the issues that we require and we have been advocating for is regulating of the sector – having the appropriate legislative framework that can govern how we act in that environment,” she said.
She further commented on a another critical factor which she said has been affecting the transition – an emergence of a number of independent power producers- individuals seeking to set up their own power plants such as solar, hydro and geothermal. She said it is quite possible that these producers would want to link their power to the existing grid of the St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC).
“What we need, again, is the supporting legislation to cause that to happen without having detrimental effects to the incumbent, which would be LUCELEC, or the dominant utility provider, as well as to whatever new independent producers that are coming in.
“So fundamentally we need to have the proper framework that can cause all of these different things to happen,”she said.
Jean in addition, stressed that it is important that whatever incentives and support is given to these independent energy producers be afforded to the established utility companies within CARILEC. She said that existing utility companies should not be disadvantaged, and neither should their competitors.
“That’s what CARILEC is about and that’s what we will continue to advocate,” she said.
A large contingent of CARILEC member groupings, as well as associate and affiliate members will engage in next week’s discussions. CARILEC, according to Jean, is all for networking and interfacing among member states in order that experiences can be shared. This she believes will also help member-states assist each other in cushioning the effects of what is already happening in the sector.
Participants are expected to be toured at the various energy generation plants in the USVI. This, according to her, is being done to build capacity among members and to provide support that they would require as they make their transition.