The sun that warms the beaches and the winds that once carried foreign ships to the Caribbean are again shaping the region’s future.

Most of the region relies heavily on diesel fuels for electricity, resulting in high and volatile rates for consumers. Expensive, unreliable energy is a barrier to development in a region striving to raise living standards, employment and productivity, President Obama said in meetings April 9 with leaders of the Caribbean Community.

“Large countries and small countries have to work together,” Obama said, “because without collective action, we’re not going to be able to address these challenges.”

A Jamaican wind farm is already producing electricity from tropical breezes. U.S. financial backing will expand the renewable power source. (Gwyneth Davidson/Wikimedia Commons)

This is not a new idea. The Obama administration has engaged Caribbean governments on renewable energy since 2009.  Recent actions include:

  • Clean energy financing: The United States will launch a $20 million financing service to encourage investment in clean energy projects.
  • Jamaican renewables: The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation is backing a 36-megawatt wind farm in Malvern, Jamaica, and is close to agreement on funding a solar farm in Jamaica.
  • Clean energy technology collaboration: The U.S. Department of Energy and Jamaica’s Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining will team up on projects to advance energy conservation and efficiency, infrastructure storage, and related matters.
  • Greening tourism: The tourism industry is the Caribbean’s energy glutton. U.S. agencies are working with the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewables (CHEER) initiative to reduce consumption by setting standards for greater energy and water efficiencies in the hospitality industry.