As the world continues to push to reduce its carbon footprint and create a greener global economy, countries, especially the developing nations, continue to invest heavily in renewable energy.
While countries in the Caribbean, including Guyana – barring its limited resources – are also heading in this direction, President Dr Irfaan Ali has cautioned that renewable technologies are not necessarily foolproof and that the region’s future will still depend significantly on fossil fuel and natural gas.
The Guyanese Head of State made the remarks at the Trinidad and Tobago Energy Conference 2023 ongoing at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain.
President Ali pointed out that the global energy consumption rebounded by 5% in 2021 as compared with the 4.5% fall in 2020, according to the World Energy and Consumption Yearbook for 2021.
He further outlined that the global primary energy consumption for 2021 is recorded at 176,431 terawatt hours, with the four main sources of power consumed by oil at 29%, coal at 24%, natural gas at 22% and hydropower at 6%.
Against this backdrop, President Ali posited that “the energy needs security of this region, I once again re-enforce the call that every country in the region with potential in natural gas should be allowed to explore that potential to its fullest, aggressively to ensure the energy security of this 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 argued that this does not mean countries in the region are opposed to pursuing renewable energy, but rather, they are limited by funding.
President Ali explained that there is a regional target to achieve a total 47% renewable energy by 2027, but to date, only 11.5% has been attained.
Highlighting that the region is far behind its set target, President Ali also pointed out that the only known available financing to achieve this target is with the Caribbean Development Bank which has a loan portfolio of US$1.4 billion.
But according to President Ali, a minimum of US$11 billion is needed to achieve the just the fundamental of targets.
In this regard, he contended that “we can safely say that in this region, fossil fuel and natural gas has a long future ahead of us.”
Notwithstanding, the Guyanese President said governments have to be nimble, flexible and innovative when it comes to their responsibilities in energy security and creating a greener economy. He used as an example Guyana’s move to sell its carbon credits, referencing the recent deal with Hess Corporation within which a minimum of US$750 million up to 2030 will be paid to Guyana. This money, among other things, will be used to achieve the objects set out in the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) 2030.
Meanwhile, President Ali said even as countries pursue renewable energy, it must be noted that technologies that exist in solar and wind – which are being deployed at unprecedented levels – are not foolproof.
“If you don’t believe me, ask those who are trying to get batteries today. Where are the batteries coming from? Where would the replacement come from? What are the natural sources of the battery? And what is the viability of those sources? Where is the assessment of that? Who is doing the assessment?”
“These are questions we have to answer, because if we build our entire system on solar, and 25-30 years from now, we are faced with these challenges, what are we going to say to the population?”
President Ali emphasised that he is not being an obstructionist, but argued that this is the reality of the situation and it must be discussed and dealt with.