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President Irfaan Ali said that the region must make practical steps in securing its energy future and be logical in its undertakings given the heavy financial burden of climate change.
Speaking at the Trinidad and Tobago 2023 Energy Conference on Monday, Ali called on governments across the region to lead from the front in understanding the ramifications and creating the needed structure. He told attendees the region must move forward with its survival in mind.
The President asked some tough questions and noted that although renewable energy should be the main pursuit, as a region, we should be practical in our approach in understanding the implications and necessities of energy needs.
REGIONAL ENERGY SECURITY
“We in CARICOM all have lofty renewable energy targets but the reality is that the energy demands in our countries continue to rise, and our energy systems are being challenged to meet our growing population centres and appetite for energy services.”
The President spoke of the large amount of energy that the region requires and the billions of US dollars needed to achieve “the most fundamental of targets”.
“So, we can safely say that in this region fossil fuel and natural gas has a long future ahead of us.”
He reinforced the call that every country in the region with potential in natural gas should be allowed to explore that potential to its fullest for the energy security of the region.
“Here in Trinidad and Tobago that opportunity exists and that opportunity should be allowed to blossom for the benefit of the people of this region and the globe.”
He noted that high energy prices contribute to high inflation in both developing and developed countries. With the idea of imported inflation in mind, political leaders and policymakers must face the reality of inflation that is not a result of bad policies or measures.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
President Ali said that amidst these crises, there is a “strange movement” driven by a policy agenda of a few countries which is not fixed in “facts and reality”.
“We have seen an unwillingness to lend to companies related to oil and gas. We have seen the cost of capital increasing for companies related to oil and gas….”
When this occurs, he added, the consumers and supporting industries suffer.
“If you increase the cost of capital and make capital less available to investors, wherever they get the capital to invest, they will also increase the costs of the product because they also have to get back their investments, and who suffers at the end of the day?”
As such, Ali emphasised that stakeholders from the government and the industry must speak out in a collective voice.
The President also spoke on the Caribbean region’s energy potential, including the plans in place in the Guyana Shield, which will be the collaborative energy effort between Suriname, French Guiana, Guyana and Northern Brazil.
He called on those gathered to examine the “remarkable” policy measures that governments in this region implemented to cushion the effects of inflation.
“In Guyana today, we have no other room to deal with the increases in fuel prices. We took every cent of tax off. What more? Together with short-term measures, government must take long-term steps either to increase or diversify oil and gas supply or look to accelerate structural change, very simple.”
He added that by using practical and innovative approaches, the region can “secure our future and advance our cause”.