Written By: Emma Websdale
During a UK–Caribbean Knowledge Sharing seminar held last week, Barbados energy minister Senator Darcy Boyce showed great interest in the use of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) in Caribbean waters.
Citing the Caribbean’s abundance of water resources, Senator Darcy Boyce told representatives and energy and policy specialists who gathered in Barbados that the ocean’s potential for producing clean energy has been regionally recognized.
“Our government has recognized that at present, marine energy technologies are new, but advancing towards commercialization”, says Senator Darcy Boyce. “We are cognizant of the fact that the cost of marine energy technologies is high, but that the research to date shows that there is scope for the lowering of these costs as compared to the costs of other forms of electricity generation.”
He adds, “The scope for such is particularly favorable in the Caribbean where the cost of electricity generation is high.”
Disclosing a study that would be undertaken in partnership with the European Union, Boyce announced that the marine potential of each ocean-based resource – including ocean thermal energy, tides, currents and waves – would be assessed for commercial viability and sustainability within the limit of tropical waters. Boyce paid particular attention to OTEC.
“We are particularly interested in OTEC systems, which not only produce base load electricity, but also [provide] cold water which may be used for air-conditioning, which creates a heavy demand for expensive electricity”, he told state members.
Boyce added that OTEC plants would also be of great interest for tourism-driven areas where the cost of air conditioning is extremely high. Boyce stated that OTEC’s additional by-products make it a technology that needs to be explored.
The minister disclosed that Barbados -which spends approximately US$400 million annually on imported fossil fuels -was already a recipient of an OTEC study using Japanese experts, through the Sustainable Energy Initiative (SEI). A program of the European Bank for Research and Development, SEI was launched to scale up sustainable energy investments and remove barriers to market development.
Meanwhile, Boyce urged the international community to continue its support for clean-energy technologies through both technical and financial assistance.
Bringing clean energy to tropical island communities was the focus on another recent event, led by Sir Richard Branson. Hosting a three-day event called the ‘Creating Climate Change Wealth Summit’, Branson pulled together renewable-power experts and Caribbean politicians to spur discussions of how islands can transition to clean energy.