Efforts to advance renewable energy in the Eastern Caribbean got a big push forward on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, when over 200 people graduated from a training course on Photovoltaic Installation and System Inspection.
This programme was the single largest training event in renewable energy in the Caribbean Region to date. It was implemented by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, on behalf of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) through its Sustainable Energy for Eastern Caribbean (SEEC) programme, with funding provided by the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
While originally conceptualised to be an in-person course, the programme was modified to be delivered virtually due to COVID-19. In the end, 228 people were trained in the programme which ran from July 2020 to January 2021.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules said, “Our vulnerability to the looming threat from climate change must put us into mitigation actions that are based on low as zero carbon energy sources. In light of this, the OECS Member States have clearly articulated their commitment to renewable energy as an integral part of their sustainable development policy.”
Luis Maia, Head of Cooperation for the EU Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM underscored the current need and importance of technical training in renewable energy solutions for the Caribbean:
“Technical training will be one of the key aspects, which needs to be addressed in the region, for this energy transition to take place. The citizens of the region need to be technically equipped so they can implement these Renewable Energy systems efficiently and effectively. This is why this Photovoltaic Training and Certification Programme is so important. We need a generation of capable and daring professionals and entrepreneurs who will be able to design, implement, and monitor renewable energy projects.”
Stefan Kossoff, the FCDO’s Development Director, was pleased with the outcome of the programme and was optimistic about its future benefits to the Caribbean Region.
“The UK is delighted to have supported this training, which not only helps the region improve its capacity to diversify its energy mix, but positions all graduates to secure high-skilled employment in a vibrant, growing sector that will continue to secure livelihoods for themselves and their families,” Kossoff remarked.
Director of the Projects Department at the Caribbean Development Bank, Daniel Best, said that the Bank’s support of the programme was in line with its commitment to promoting renewable energy among its Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs). He added, “This is so because these options remain the only viable ones for most BMCs to break their over-dependence on imported fossil fuels -mainly in the form of diesel fuel.”
Programme participants were drawn from the six independent OECS Member States —Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and Grenadines— and included both male and female participants from the public and private sectors. The programme also welcomed persons with disabilities, young new entrants into the field of solar technology, as well as established practitioners in need of certification. Participants were selected from applications submitted by various national energy ministries who met the eligibility criteria.
The PV installation course covered several topics, including the fundamental principles of the application, design, installation, operation and maintenance of Photovoltaic (PV) systems. Electrical inspectors received advanced training on safety and operations of PV systems for approval. Initially, three, four-week online courses were planned, but because of increased demand, an additional course for the PV installation training was undertaken in December 2020. In addition to the course examinations, trainees were offered the opportunity to take the examinations for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, NABCEP Certification. The programme will ultimately support training, certification and standards, necessary for the growth of the solar sector in the OECS.
Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS, noted the significance of the landmark training: “With the solar industry expected to grow and develop in the Eastern Caribbean, strengthening the human resources for solar energy in the OECS will facilitate wider diffusion of solar technology to support other industries such as agriculture, manufacturing tourism and transportation. Technology such as PV are mature and environmentally friendly, helping to achieve both sustainable energy and climate change targets. Factors such as decreasing costs, improved regulatory environments and public awareness and acceptability will lead to increased demand for solar energy. Training efforts such as this will ultimately support a better quality of life for the region.”