US launches $20 million incentive for Caribbean, Central America

The White House has launched a number of initiatives to support green energy development in the Caribbean and Central America.

The recent announcement follows a meeting last week between the United States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Kingston, Jamaica.

Attending the U.S.-CARICOM summit, President Barack Obama met with regional leaders to discuss pressing issues such as energy security, reducing energy costs and fighting climate change. The move follows a strong engagement among the nations on the issues over the past year, including the White House Caribbean Energy Security Summit hosted by Vice President Joe Biden in January and the launch of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) coordinated by the U.S. State Department.

As part of its efforts to deepen the collaboration, the U.S. has launched a number of initiatives, including a $20 million financing facility for the Caribbean and Central America to encourage investment in clean energy projects. The facility will provide early-stage funding to catalyze greater private and public sector investment in renewable energy projects. Collaborating on the project will be the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department.

In January, OPIC formed a financing and insurance team to accelerate development of the Caribbean renewable energy sector. OPIC is in advanced talks to finance a 20 MW solar farm in Jamaica and has already committed financing to the island nation’s largest private-sector wind farm, a 36 MW facility. OPIC is actively looking for opportunities to support solar and wind energy projects in Jamaica and throughout the broader Caribbean region.

The U.S. is also partnering with Caribbean and Central American countries on a task force to identify concrete steps to advance energy sector reform, regional integration and clean energy development.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Jamaica’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining also signed a statement of intent to work together in areas such as energy conservation and efficiency, energy infrastructure, micro grids and energy storage, fuel diversification and energy policy.

In March, the Energy Department organized U.S. and Caribbean stakeholder working groups to look at opportunities ranging from clean energy, efficiency, diversifying electricity generation, clean transportation and energy education at the Caribbean Clean Energy Technology Symposium, held in St. Thomas. The working groups will report on their progress at the 2016 Symposium to be held in Jamaica.

The DOE is also launching a new Energy Scenario Planning Tool, building on its Energy Transitions: Island Playbook, to help island communities plan clean energy projects that are most likely to attract investment, capitalize on local resources, and meet energy needs.

The tourism industry is the largest energy user in the Caribbean and the DOE, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OPIC are undertaking the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewables (CHEER) initiative, which supports projects to improve energy and water efficiency as well as the exchange of best practices in the hotel and tourism industry. USAID is launching a complementary project focused on the Eastern Caribbean that will develop new financing tools for energy efficiency and renewables.

USAID is likewise working with the Jamaican government and the private sector on a new integrated Clean Energy Program to establish pre-conditions for clean energy development, optimize renewable energy integration and accelerate private-sector clean energy investment.