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New Business Model Inevitable For Caribbean Utilities

Stephenson King

Caribbean utility leaders meeting at the 2019 CARILEC CEOs and Leadership Conference in Saint Lucia last month agreed that utility companies need to embrace a new business model built on Digitization, Decarbonization and Decentralization (the 3Ds). Utilities are uniquely placed to lead the transformation of the energy sector, which is currently being impacted by emerging technologies, and experiencing a shift towards integration of more renewable energy sources, delegates discussed.

The conference, held May 21 to 24, was jointly hosted by the Caribbean Electric Utilities Corporation (CARILEC), an association of energy solutions providers within the region, and St Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC). The conference also celebrated CARILEC’s 30th anniversary.

Utility leaders, service providers and global corporations, represented twenty-five countries from the Caribbean, North America and Europe. Under the conference theme –“RETHINKING?Disruption.Resilience.Sustainability.” – delegates explored global trends and opportunities in the renewables sector, technology, and investment demands driven by climate change.

In his welcoming remarks, Acting CARILEC Chairman Eddinton Powell, who is President and CEO of FortisTCI Limited, noted that utilities have a responsibility to lead Caribbean economies toward a new energy landscape.

“As Caribbean utility leaders, we can, and we must integrate more renewable energy solutions in our delivery of service. Similarly, we can and we must be at the forefront of the electrification of the ground transportation sector,” Powell stated.

He added, “These are critical imperatives for the Caribbean, if we are to reduce our dependency on traditional hydrocarbon fuel sources, much of it imported to the region, with all of the uncertainties that this entails. With an energy economy led by renewables and a transformed and electrified transportation sector, we can open the way for even greater entrepreneurship, and ultimately wealth creation, throughout the region.”

Keynote speaker, President and CEO of Wärtsilä Corporation JaakoEskola, sounded a championing note with respect to the transition to renewables.  He disclosed that Wärtsilä’s corporate vision in its energy business is to support the move to 100 percent renewables. According to Eskola “rapid cost reduction – both capital and operating costs – of wind and solar is steadily making it economically feasible to deploy these technologies especially in conditions such as you have here in the Caribbean.  I feel that the time is not far away when wind and solar power generation will assume the mantle of least cost generators of electric power.”

Image of Ports, Energy and Infrastructure Minister, Stephenson King
Ports, Energy and Infrastructure Minister, Stephenson King

CARILEC CEOs and business operators in attendance applauded a pledge articulated by Wärtsilä’s CEO, a corporation ranked as one of Most Sustainable 100 Corporations in the World (2018).  “We are ready to assist you in modelling your power systems, help you to develop the best strategy for defining your generation mix, help you understand the impacts of wind and solar generation, and together develop the best suited integrative strategy including storage technologies and flexible power.”

Speaking on behalf of the government of Saint Lucia, Stephenson King, Minister for Infrastructure, Ports, Energy and Labour described the attainment of 30 years by CARILEC as a toast to the vision that brought the Corporation into being and to its longevity, as evidence of the accuracy of that vision. “In like manner, CARILEC must recognise that since energy is a critical driver in economic development, CARILEC and its members are essential partners in that development. Thus, given the challenges of the extreme threats of climate change for Caribbean economies, much depends on a new vision for the future of our region’s energy sector that is tailored to these times.”

Conference sponsors included Wärtsilä Corporation, Aggreko, Eagle LNG, Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC), Sol Caribbean, New Fortress, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, Electronic Power Design, Sensus, Digicel, and MSHS.

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