Between March 25-27, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), organized the “Pacific and Caribbean Conference on Effective and Sustainable Regulation of Power and Water Services” in Nadi, Fiji. The purpose of the event was to create an ‘idea exchange’ on how to improve the use and management of the limited water and energy resources in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). In attendance were both heads of the public and private sector, respectively.
Sessions were focused on topics such as: water and energy regulation and policy, increasing access to energy and water supplies, engagement of consumers and civil society, and how the water-energy nexus affects the SIDS.
What is the Status Quo of the Water and Energy Markets in the Caribbean and What is Currently Being Done to Improve It?
During the conference, the Caribbean Development Bank presented their findings of a recent study pointing to a general state of inefficiency and mismanagement of both energy and water resources in the Caribbean.
Inefficiency issues listed in the report include: high non-revenue water, high energy usage, and high wage cost. Additionally, the study found that there is an inadequate level of investment in infrastructure, low quality of service and an inadequate recovery of costs.
In terms of management, the study found that there was a lack of focus on water resource management and a disregard for the impacts of climate change.
According to a presentation by the World Watch Institute, there is also a need for regulation in both the water and energy markets, the use of tariffs to “provide demand side efficiency” and “affordable access”, more standards, and more planning for integrated energy.
Specific Work in the Caribbean
Since 2007, the Caribbean Development Bank has also been working on a project entitled “Enhancing Effective Regulation of Water and Energy Infrastructure and Utility Services”, which is “designed to improve the quantity and quality of infrastructure and the delivery of water and energy utility services by conducting literature review and case study investigations into the formal and informal attributes of water and energy”.
According to the conference, St. Lucia has been taking tremendous strides in creating a new management system for their water and electricity sectors. In fact, the Government of St. Lucia is working on the establishment of the “National Utilities Regulatory Commission (NURC)” and the formation of the “Eastern Caribbean Energy Regulatory Authority (ECERA)” with the World Bank, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and other partners.
The Government of Barbados is also working on reforming its power and telecommunications regulation system, which according to Barbados, is riddled with unfair business and trading practices, a high level of consumer complaints, and unfair contracts.
The United Nations
Additionally, the United Nations is also working to improve the efficiency of water and energy usage. In February of 2014, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) held a Thematic Debate on the subject. The main conclusions from the Debate were that improving water and energy usage by expanding their affordability and reach, would allow new business models to further poverty reduction. For more information on this topic please read our previous blog post on this issue by clicking here.
Questions for the Reader
- What water and energy issues have you encountered in in your country? What changes would you like to see?
- Many more country examples exist. If you would like to know more about the issue in your country, visit your country’s government website and look for the department or ministry responsible for water or energy.