Energy security is critical for every country, but small countries often face the most acute challenges. For example, the citizens of the Caribbean and Central America on average still pay some of the highest electricity prices in the Western Hemisphere.
Capping several years of intensive U.S. engagement on energy security in Central America and the Caribbean, the U.S.-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit held on May 3 and 4 in Washington, D.C. focused attention on tangible progress and strengthened the momentum behind each region’s transition to a cleaner, more secure energy future. Vice President Biden led the U.S. government in mobilizing efforts to promote energy security in the Caribbean and Central America.
Under the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, the United States is working together with leaders in the region, energy development partners, and the private sector to change the Caribbean energy paradigm. This initiative was born out of the belief that every Caribbean nation should be in full control of its energy destiny, and that supply diversity is key to national security and economic growth. For some islands, that might mean incorporating wind and solar, for others geothermal, still others natural gas -– what’s important is to maximize the menu of energy options that Caribbean nations can affordably access. Notable successes over the last 12 months include a promising geothermal agreement in Nevis awarded in a competitive tender held with U.S. technical assistance, new natural gas investment deals for Jamaica, and electricity reform in the Bahamas, as well as wind and solar projects in the region supported by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
In Central America, we continue to promote the goal of an economically integrated region through the hemisphere’s Connecting the Americas 2022 Initiative, which emphasizes enhanced electrical interconnection to scale up sustainable energy investment. Integration of power systems -– both physical interconnections and market integration -– increase energy reliability and security of supply. This results in a more diverse energy matrix. It also contributes to the creation of economies of scale and cost savings from leveraging regional resources. We are working closely with our partners in Central America, and welcome Mexico’s announcement that it will join an Interconnection Commission with Central American countries.
To sustain this momentum, in April 2015 President Obama and regional leaders launched the U.S.- Caribbean-Central American Energy Security Task Force to identify specific next steps. The Task Force report of May 4 welcomes the launch of the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Platform, and ongoing support to Central America’s regional electricity integration process. The U.S. government will allocate more than $2 million worth of technical support and assistance to support the C-SERMS Platform through the Department of State, USAID, and the U.S. Mission to the Organization of American States. In Central America, the Task Force recognized important advances in their regional electricity integration process and national energy markets, while recommending the region take steps to grow and expand its regional power market to mobilize investment. As a result, the State Department will also seek to provide assistance to Central America to help further the progress of the Regional Electricity Market (known by its Spanish acronym, MER) and realize the region’s vision of a vibrant, interconnected regional electricity market.
As Vice President Biden noted at the Energy Summit, “North America is the epicenter of global energy.” We look forward to continuing to work as partners with our Caribbean and Central American neighbors on sustainable energy in ways which will have transformative effects on the entire region’s overall competitiveness and prosperity.
About the Author: Amos Hochstein serves as Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
For more information:
- View the Report from the Task Force on U.S. Caribbean and Central American Energy Security.
- Check out the White House fact sheet on the U.S.-Caribbean and Central American Energy Summit.
- Learn more about the Bureau of Energy Resources and follow the bureau on Twitter @EnergyAtState.