Remarks by Interim U.S. Permanent Representative Michael J. Fitzpatrick on U.S.-Caribbean Energy Cooperation

Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, November 19, 2015.
Interim Permanent Representative of the United States Michael J. Fitzpatrick addresses the Permanent Council, November 19, 2015.

On November 19, 2015, Interim U.S. Permanent Representative Michael J. Fitzpatrick addressed the OAS Permanent Council following a presentation by the Venezuelan government’s Minister of Popular Power for Oil and Mining Eulogio del Pino.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States recognizes the challenges that Caribbean nations face due to their high energy costs, particularly the potential for disruptive energy shocks that result from fluctuations in imported oil prices.  That is why we have prioritized the diversification of energy systems to help the region’s competitiveness and its ability to prosper.

Promoting energy security in the Caribbean is a priority for the United States, as is evident from the engagement in the region by the White House, the State Department, the Department of Energy, USAID, and other U.S. government agencies.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) in June 2014 in the Dominican Republic; he then hosted the January 2015 Caribbean Energy Security Summit, bringing together Caribbean leaders, the multilateral development banks and other partners at the State Department.

President Obama met with Caribbean Heads of Government three months later at the US-CARICOM Summit in Jamaica, where he announced the creation of a Caribbean Energy Task Force and the launch of a new energy investment financing facility.

Then, during the Summit of the Americas in Panama this April, on the heels of that Summit in Jamaica, President Obama also announced the United States’ commitment and support for aggressively phasing out costly fossil fuel subsidies that hamper the growth of nascent renewable energy industries.  We remain committed to addressing this important challenge and leveling the playing field for renewable energy development with partners around the world.

Our leaders, in the Caribbean and the United States, understand the importance of creating a new conversation about energy.  And our leaders are seeking practical, sustainable results for the future success — and genuine energy independence — of the region.

We all know that Caribbean countries have struggled with energy security for decades, and both the United States and the international community are committed to helping the nations of the Caribbean develop the clean, sustainable energy sectors that will support regional and national economic growth, stability, and competitiveness.

We recognize that energy transformation will depend on the particular needs of each country.  And as we all know, public finance alone cannot drive this effort.

The United States is already engaging with the Caribbean on the key opportunities to help strengthen power sectors, create robust energy markets, and enhance regional trade and integration.

Our activities, including the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, or CESI, foster attractive conditions for investment through regulatory reform, increase access to affordable and cleaner energy sources, and promote competitive, independent, and environmentally sustainable energy markets.

We are working together with Caribbean nations to implement this initiative, a comprehensive effort to accelerate the deployment of clean energy by supporting nations in their efforts to improve energy governance, increase access to finance, and enhance donor coordination.

As part of these efforts, the United States is working with CARICOM, the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the EU and several other partners to stand up CARICOM’s energy policy implementation framework, which we hope will serve as the key regional framework for coordinating regional energy activities.

At the January’s Caribbean Energy Security Summit, the United States along with heads of government and ministers from the Caribbean, international development partners, and other regional stakeholders all committed to support the diversification of the energy systems of Caribbean states and to share lessons learned through new and expanded regional information networks.  Our goal is to create a new paradigm for energy, one that provides the Caribbean with greater energy security through reliable access to affordable supply.

At the April U.S.-CARICOM Summit, President Obama reaffirmed this commitment and announced several initiatives to advance these goals, including a new fund to mobilize private investment in clean energy projects in the region, and a Task Force for Caribbean and Central American Energy Security.  This Task Force is a mechanism to evaluate progress under CESI and to identify additional concrete steps to accelerate regional energy diversification.  It is an opportunity to talk about how we engage structurally.  My government met with several Caribbean governments under this Task Force just last month in Miami to move this forward.

Secretary Kerry also announced in October the opening of a $20 million Clean Energy Finance Facility for the Caribbean and Central America to facilitate investment in clean energy development in the regions’ emerging markets to help address the regions’ electricity shortages and high prices, and maximize the use of abundant renewable energy resources.  Cutting down on imported fossil fuels will both lower greenhouse gas emissions and move the region towards greater energy independence.

Additionally, the United States is working with the OAS to provide project development support to Caribbean governments and utilities for sustainable energy projects through the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Capacity Building initiative.  We are also promoting clean energy and efficiency in Antigua and Barbuda and the Dominican Republic, for example, through the OAS Sustainable Communities in the Caribbean and Central America project, and catalyzing regional technical cooperation on renewable energy, air quality and greenhouse gas measurements through the Inter-American Metrology system.

We are also contributing to OAS efforts to foster low-carbon economic growth in small and medium-sized enterprises through the Closed-Loop Cycle Production in the Americas Program in Trinidad and Tobago and three other OAS member states.

The United States is supporting St. Kitts and Nevis in developing geothermal resources on the island of Nevis that may have the potential to power both islands, and we plan to help St. Kitts and Nevis develop its regulatory sector, facilitate renewable energy integration, and attract even more private investment and create jobs for its citizens.

Allow me also to mention the November 12 announcement by the Government of Jamaica, having selected the US-based New Fortress Energy to supply Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) for a new 190 Megawatt (MW) gas-fired power plant in Old Harbour to be constructed by 2018.  This comes on the heels of the August 7 announcement by Jamaica Public Service (JPS) that New Fortress will supply gas for a 120 MW facility being converted from auto diesel oil to gas and expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.  With aspirations to deliver LNG to the broader Caribbean, Fortress will now invest upwards of $200 million to construct an LNG terminal with capacity of over 200 MT per year.  Once in operation, these two LNG power plants will account for approximately a third of Jamaica’s total installed electricity capacity, and one-half of the nation’s peak demand.

As the Chairman of Jamaica’s Electricity Sector Enterprise Team stated with last week’s announcement, “Integration of natural gas-powered generation is a model for countries around the world to seize control of their energy and environmental future.  It will lead to stable, lower long-term power prices and the bridge to incorporating additional renewable power in the future.” Indeed, these twin initiatives will allow Jamaica to integrate more than 100MW of additional intermittent wind and solar energy expected to be added to the grid over the next two years, bringing the country closer to its goal of 30 percent electricity generation from renewables by 2030.

The United States and the Caribbean do all of this, and more, together, as partners, with no hidden agenda.  We do it because of our shared goals and objectives; for the pursuit of affordable and cleaner energy is in our collective interest.  The development of a variety of sustainable energy sources can only benefit the well-being of our citizens, and of our planet.

Mr. Chair, the discussion we are having today reminds us all of our 2007 General Assembly in Panama, the theme of which was “Energy for Sustainable Development.”  As our head of delegation said at the time, “Solving the challenge of energy will clearly strengthen the link between democracy and development in the Americas and it will contribute to the long-term success of democracy.  But we must always remember that our greatest source of energy as democracies is not oil or gas, wind or water, biofuels or fossil fuels; it is the talent and the creativity of our people unlocked by the democratic and human rights principles that the OAS stands for and defends.”

That was evident then, and I submit it is all the more evident today.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.