By Desmond Brown
The head of the Sustainable Communities, Risk and Climate Change section of the OAS, Richard Huber, spoke with IPS in the capital of Antigua and Barbuda about energy efficiency and renewable energies with a view to achieving a sustainable country.
IPS: What is a sustainable country?
RICHARD HUBER: It is a country that tries to limit carbon dioxide emissions in a significant way.
For example, Costa Rica is trying to become a country with zero emissions, and they are seeking it by obtaining most of their energy from renewable sources, the most notable being hydroelectric, but also solar, wind and biofuels.
So, a sustainable country in terms of renewable energy and energy efficiency will be one that plants many trees to capture carbon, takes care of its coral reefs and its mangrove ecosystems, the most important through national park programs and protected areas and being very, very efficient so that, say in 2020, it will be a zero-carbon country.
IPS: How can small island states in the Caribbean achieve environmental sustainability?
RH: The first thing you will have to have is a strong program of protected areas and national parks, as we now work through the Northeast Marine Management Area, as well as Cades Bay in the south, two large parks that cover almost 40 percent. the marine environment.
In fact, there is a Caribbean Challenge initiative in many Caribbean countries that began with the Prime Minister of Grenada and through which many, many of them commit to having 20 percent of their marine areas well managed from the point of view. of protection and conservation by 2020. Protect your biodiversity.
It is a very good defense against hurricanes and other storms.
The countries that take care of their mangroves, their drinking water, their herbaceous swamps, and their wetlands in general were the least affected by the tsunami that hit the South Pacific. Protect your ecosystems. Second, achieve great energy efficiency.
Try to promote hybrid cars, fuel efficient vehicles and have a very good sustainable public transportation program.
This, in fact, is a great equalizer of poverty, it helps the poor to get to work comfortably and quickly.
So being efficient in the use of energy and protecting its biodiversity are the two key things for a sustainable country.
IPS: What examples of environmental sustainability did you see in Antigua?
RH: I toured with Ruth Spencer, the consultant who works to have 10 PV power plant programs in community centers, churches and other places.
We went to the Precision Project, which not only has 19 megawatts of photovoltaic energy, which I think is more electricity than they need, and they continue to feed into the grid.
That's less than zero carbon because they actually produce more electricity than they use.
There is also a tremendous opportunity for Antigua in hydroponics.
The problem with, say, tourism, is that it depends on the supply being available when it is needed, and that is the kind of thing that hydroponics and other new technologies, more efficient and sustainable agriculture can achieve.
The idea would be to make Antigua and Barbuda more sufficient from a food point of view by 2020.
IPS: Could you give me examples of OAS projects in the Caribbean in this regard?
RH: It is the second stage of the project for sustainable communities in Central America and the Caribbean.
In the first we had 14 initiatives and in this one, 10.
In Dominica we support a hydroelectric power station, mini hydraulic power plants, and we also train and disseminate this possibility among the populations of the river basin that can have their own hydroelectric power station in their community.
Another very interesting project is that of Granada, where 90 percent of the poultry was imported because they are very expensive to feed. There was an initiative with a sanitary landfill that gave up the land and now a person goes through the fish markets collecting the fishing waste that was previously thrown away, he takes it to a plant that cooks it to make food for poultry.
Now instead of 90 percent, 70 percent of the poultry is imported and not only that, the source of energy is motor oil.
IPS: What advice would you give the Caribbean countries on renewable energy and energy efficiency?
RH: The first thing is that an enabling environment is needed to introduce renewable energy, in this case mainly solar and wind.
Right here on Jabberwock Beach, there are four historic windmills that are now in ruins, but the fact is, there was always a lot of wind here and there still is, and those hills along the beach would be a great place to develop the wind power.
There is also a lot of land, for example around the airport, a tremendous amount of sun and a space where solar panels can be installed.
We started to have projects of this type in the United States of 150 megawatts, which I think is more than all of Antigua and Barbuda uses.
In these large plants, especially in areas that already have security, such as around airports, larger-scale photovoltaic projects can be introduced and power the power lines and, over time, gradually begin to abandon the generation system to diesel base, which supplies 100 percent or nearly 99 percent of Antigua and Barbuda's energy.