U.S.-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit

Remarks
Vice President Joe Biden and Other Summit Participants
Washington, DC
May 4, 2016


Vice President Joe Biden: An integrated North America, working to promote energy security beyond our borders can be a major asset for the entire hemisphere. And it’s profoundly in the self-interest of the United States to see the Caribbean countries succeed as prosperous, secure, energy-independent neighbors — not a world apart, but an integral part of the hemisphere, where every nation is middle class, democratic and secure. It’s the first time in history that can be envisioned. You can see it if we make the right decisions.

Dan Birns, Senior Energy Officer, Bureau of Energy Resources: Energy is a foundational issue in the Caribbean, one that impacts national security, competitiveness and economic development, environmental sustainability, and quality of life. With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean has few conventional energy resources. And despite the excellent resource potential, renewable options like wind, solar, and geothermal have made very little inroads. Consequently, most Caribbean nations rely on imported fuel oil for the majority of their energy needs. This means that energy is: Expensive, Volatile, Subject to supply disruption and requires hard currency to flow out of these small economies.

Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein: In the Bahamas, we have sun almost all year round. We have wind in many places. We have geothermal in some places, and we have natural gas capacity in others. And therefore, it’s important that we make a shift, while we have an opportunity now of low oil prices, to take advantage, and make that switch to renewable energy. So that it could provide more security of supply, ease the debt restrictions that countries have, and allow for more investment. And I believe, as far as the United States is concerned, we want to be partners with the Caribbean nations to be able to achieve exactly that.

Dan Birns, Senior Energy Officer, Bureau of Energy Resources: In a May 2013 meeting of Caribbean leaders, the U.S. heard firsthand about the impact of oil dependency on Caribbean islands. We also heard a strong request for sustained engagement with the U.S., together with other partners, to help the region transition away from carbon intensive expensive, imported fuels towards cleaner sources such as domestic renewable energy and natural gas.

Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein: Vice President Biden launched the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative. When you look at the Caribbean, you have a series of island states who have a very high cost of electricity, in a region that needs an enormous amount of power in order to succeed and to prosper. Most of that electricity in this region, in the Caribbean, is being achieved through fuel oil.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Juan Gonzalez: The most important thing that the Caribbean Security Initiative seeks to achieve is to address the main challenges to energy security in the region. Which, as we know, are also related to the high price of energy. Most of the region depends on highly expensive imported diesel. And so what the initiative tries to do is work with our partners in the region to address the financing challenges, the regulatory challenges – which are sometimes discouraging outside investment – and also, donor coordination to make sure that the United States and our partners in the international community are coordinating for maximum impact. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) established a Caribbean-oriented deal team that enables the agency to more aggressively support clean energy project development in the region. And, already this team is paying dividends.

Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein: This will drive more investment, and ease the conditions that we have today in this region and take advantage of the poignant time that we’re in right now to fix the energy climate situation and move forward in a stronger and better way.

Secretary of State John Kerry: I’m very pleased to announce that USAID funding associated with the Caribbean and Central American renewable energy projects is going to come online tomorrow, May 4th, and we’re going to begin taking project applications right away in order to support this kind of energy and future and investment. And every one of us, I think, should take note of the fact that the Caribbean and Central American nations continue to pursue legal, regulatory, and policy reforms. They’re going to modernize and integrate their energy systems and make private sector clean energy more attractive in all of those places.

Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Amos Hochstein: President Obama and regional leaders tasked us with additional steps we could take together to promote energy security in the hemisphere. In the Caribbean, the task force report calls for a new Caribbean wide approach to donor coordination to effectively target resources to accelerate energy transformation; to support a new CARICOM platform to promote sustainable energy strategies, regional policy and specific clean energy projects and to implement policy and regulatory reform to increase use of renewable energy and natural gas in the power sector. I am honored to present the task force report to the Vice President of the United States and the President of Panama and to Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

Vice President Joe Biden: Bolstering the prosperity of our region, strengthening energy security throughout the Caribbean and central America, has been and continues to be a priority of this administration, of the president, and myself.

In the Caribbean you’re improving energy sector governance which opens access to new financing mechanisms and better coordination with development partners that’s already delivering results among them the new power purchasing agreement in Nevis, a new finance agreement for a geothermal power plant in St Vincent and the Grenadines, a restructured electricity sector in the Bahamas to speed the transition of a modern diversified power system, a new deal to import liquefied natural gas to Jamaica. As you keep on the path of modernization, the United States will continue to stand with you and support you. Over the past two years, our Overseas Private Investment Corporation has committed more than 250 million dollars to support clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Central America. And there is currently another 200 million dollars for future projects in the pipeline. We want to make sure that the people of the Caribbean and Central America share in the progress that the region will benefit on. Thank you. Thank you, for being so directly engaged. And again, I say this as an elected official, thank you for making some very difficult regulatory decisions in each of your countries.