by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Hon. Konris Maynard, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Energy and Utilities, Domestic Transport, Information, Communication and Technology and Posts, was at the 8th Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) in Kingston, Jamaica, where he presented the St. Kitts and Nevis’ perspective in the Session “Electrifying the Caribbean – Views on the Roadmap and Strategy”.
The Energy Minister said the nation is well on its way to energy security, which equates to sovereign security.
“We need about 27 megawatts of power peak – 27/28 – ware small, smart Island. At present, the energy company can only provide that. Unfortunately, we have not had the investments over the years that we should have had to ensure that the energy company has the capacity to supply not only the base requirements or the peak requirements but also the excess to facilitate growth. Added to that, the government has taken the position that it will not allow the energy costs to be transferred to the consumer. And so, at present, the government is paying what we call the fuel variation charge, which is the difference in the fuel costs based on a set price of fuel that was set maybe 10/12 years ago. So as the price [of] fuel has fluctuated, the price of electricity has remained constant over the past couple of years. And so the government is taking on that tremendous burden of the additional fuel variation charge. So there is the expense that is being absorbed by the government.”
CSEF 2023 was hosted by the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) during CARICOM’s Energy Month, which the Federation is observing.
The priority areas discussed included electrifying the Caribbean, electrifying the transport sector, decarbonising difficult-to-electrify segments of the transport sector and integrating electric vehicles into power distribution networks.
Maynard suggested that the size of St. Kitts and Nevis is a model country for the transition to Electric Vehicles (EVs).
“St. Kitts and Nevis, to me, is probably a model place for us to contemplate the transition to electric vehicles and E-mobility; why? The main one in St. Kitts is 32 miles long. An electric vehicle has a range of over 200 miles. So therefore, as I’ve said before, if you buy an electric vehicle, unless you’re not reaching home every night, which you’re supposed to be doing, you can charge your vehicle and never have to use a charging station. And I’ve not only said this as the Minister, I have done it, and I decided that I will take the lead. I’ve invested in an electric vehicle. I have a home charger, and obviously, it works well.”
Minister Maynard continued, “Additionally, the cost – the electric tariff in St. Kitts right now without the fuel variation charge is about US25 cents. That would then cost me – for a 77-kilowatt hour battery – that will cost me about EC$50 to technically fill up the electric vehicle. Equivalently, I would probably pay $200 in gas for that same ‘full-up’ so immediately you can see the tremendous amount of savings that electrification will bring for our country. Get rid of the fuel variation charge; if you have renewable energy, get rid of the costs to fuel your vehicle by going renewable.”
As the government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to invest in securing the Federation through food, energy, and water, the officials have noted that it is vital to ensure investor confidence, especially in the energy sector, to enforce necessary frameworks.
“We are going to make some key things priorities for us. That is our security, water security and food security, and so, at present, I can say that as Minister of Energy, I have the full support of the cabinet in moving forward with our energy transition. So, what are some of the things we’re doing? One – It has become apparent that in order to increase investor confidence, we must ensure that the proper regulatory structures are in place, and so we are now pursuing bringing to life the Utility Commission that are already there in law, but we want to empower them in order to ensure that investors are confident that in our energy space, there is a fair levelled playing. We are presently working on our feed-in tariff because there are persons who have gone ahead and invested in solar, but they’re not being compensated for it if they provide any excess into the grid. And so very shortly we ought to fine-tune – looking at some of the examples of the region – our feeding tariff where that can excite persons to even invest more in the distributed solar.”
Maynard said the Federation is already working on its Electric Vehicle policy and figuring out how to incentivise Kittitians and Nevisians to buy into the Electric Vehicle investments.
“Also, we are working on developing our electric vehicle policy and how we are going to start incentivising persons to get electric vehicles and put a little twist and turn on it. There is something we’re working on which I don’t really want to announce yet until I get the okay from the Energy Unit that this is something that is viable, but we’re looking at ways of how we can attract persons to invest in electric vehicles.”
What are the challenges the Federation faces in this push to Electric Vehicles?
“Challenges that come with all of these initiatives, especially with electric vehicles, for instance. As small territories, we collect a significant amount of taxes from people buying vehicles through duties, for instance. With the price of electric vehicles being as high as they are then, how do you incentivise someone to buy an electric vehicle that is 20 or 30% more than a regular [Internal Combustion Engines (ICE)] vehicle? Well, one way is [through] duty concessions. But if our country is collecting 45% duty on ICE vehicles and you’re getting millions of dollars through duty payments – through taxes – how do you tell your Ministry of Finance that I want you to cut out that revenue? Where do you fill that vacuum that is being created from that? So these are the kinds of discussions that we’re going to have to have or are having?”
Forum attendees had the opportunity to visit established renewable energy systems in Jamaica, with site visits planned for the Wigton Windfarm and the JPS Operations Centre.
The biennial Forum provided an extraordinary resource to present regional frameworks for a Feed-In Tariff – a policy designed to support the development of renewable energy sources by providing a guaranteed, above-market price for producers – and Electric Vehicle Policies.
The St. Kitts & Nevis delegation included Mrs Shaniqua Carey-Brown, Senior Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Mr Denasio Frank, Energy Officer in the Energy Unit, and Mr Clement Williams, General Manager of SKELEC fully funded through sponsorship by CSEF partners.
The panel included other Ministers – Hon. Kerryne James of Grenada, Hon. Stephenson King of St Lucia, and Senator Hon. Benarva Browne of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Other Caricom Minister colleagues attending the forum include the Hon. Melford Nicholas of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Rodwell Ferguson of Belize, Hon. Dr Vince Henderson of Dominica, and Senator Hon. Richie Sookhai of Trinidad and Tobago.
The conference has financial support from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Jamaica Electric Vehicle Association, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The 8th Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF) was held from November 7-9, 2023.