The gravity of the global energy challenge is particularly critical in a fuel dependent nation like The Bahamas, this according to the recently appointed Minister of Environment The Hon. Earl Deveaux.

Minister Deveaux was one of two keynote speakers who addressed the July 23, 2003, opening of a two-day Caribbean Regional Sustainable Energy High Level Seminar, held at the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort and organised by The Organization of American States (OAS), along with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The seminar, which is being hosted by The Bahamas, seeks to address key challenges in the energy sector throughout the region and identify measures to increase energy sector sustainability, while combating the rising costs of energy resources.

It is intended as a forum for participants to identify key impediments to promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency alternatives, priorities in technical and capacity building needs and opportunities for rationalizing and improving coordination among the numerous entities working in the region.

Minister Deveaux informed the high level delegates in attendance that The Bahamas relies entirely on marine and air transportation to connect and move goods and food staples.

“It depends on imported petroleum products to satisfy over ninety nine percent of consumer energy demand,” Minister Deveaux said.

“As a culture, we are heavily dependent on private vehicles as our primary mode of transit. Our utility services, both water and electricity, are powered by diesel burning generators.

“It is expected that the demand for electricity throughout The Bahamas will continue to grow at a rate of eight percent annually. Ten years ago merchandised fuel imports for The Bahamas represented ten percent of our total imports. Today, they represent thirty one percent,” he said.

Despite heavily reliance on fossil fuels, said Minister Deveaux, “The Bahamas lacks any known exploitable supply of conventional energy resources. This severe imbalance between supply and demand puts our nation in an extremely vulnerable state both as a result of its dependency, and due to the fact that price increases for energy services are expected to continue to increase.”

Minister Deveaux made reference to a special report published in The Economist of June 21, 2008 that summarizes the scale of the energy boom and compares it to the information technology boom, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Minister Deveaux said according to The Economist, the expected market for energy translates into a business worth six trillion dollars annually and represents roughly one tenth of the world’s economic output.

“The sheer scope of this opportunity and the available technology provide compelling reasons to look at every possible option. However, in the context of The Bahamas, a nation heavily dependent on tourism and its environment, alternative renewable sources of energy are critical to our survival,” said Minister Deveaux.

The seminar is the second in a series of four sub-regional events set to take place throughout the Americas. It brings together ministers and other senior authorities from the Caribbean region, US government representatives and organizers and key energy stakeholders from countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The seminar stems from a 2007 OAS General Assembly mandate in the Declaration of Panama on Energy for sustainable Development, which Member States approved, committing to pursuing alternative solutions to the energy challenges facing the hemisphere.

At a subsequent Meeting of National Authorities and Experts on Energy, held in March 2008 at the OAS headquarters in Washington, the Member States agreed to host a seminar to further discuss these issues at a sub-regional level.