Remarks by U.S. Consul General Margaret Hawthorne Roosevelt House, January 23, 2017

Thank you all for coming this evening and a special thank you to our cohosts the Curacao Development Institute, Director Luis Santine and his staff.  I would like to welcome Minister Kenneth Gijsbertha, Minister of Finance, Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath, Minister of Economic Affairs, Minister Suzy Camelia-Romer, Minister of Traffic and Transportation, and Mrs. Giselle McWilliam, President of Parliament.  Thank you for joining us.  Welcome also to our guests from the University of California at Berkeley, the World Bank, and Quanten.  And hello again to the many guests here tonight from Curacao’s renewable energy sector.

For far too long, small island states like Curaçao have had to pay excessively high prices for energy.   Most of them have to import fossil fuels, which are subject to global oil price fluctuations, and they also have had challenges with generation and transmission, especially to remote areas.  Curaçao has been an early leader in wind energy production in the Caribbean through its Tera Kora and Playa Kanoa installations.   And many of us have seen the various solar panel arrays around the island, including here at the Consulate.

According to the Director of the Curaçao Oil Refinery José van der Wall-Arneman, Curaçao could get cheaper energy, but where that energy comes from is a decision we believe should be made on the merits not just of price, but security.  The ongoing importation of oil and other fossil fuels will never, in the long-term, compete with Curacao’s remarkable limitless access to solar, wind, and other forms of abundant renewable power.   In order to make these alternative energy sources affordable and encourage entrepreneurs to seek new creative solutions, governments and utilities must ensure that regulatory and tax structures are fair and transparent and allow for innovation and competition.

The United States promotes a vision for the Western Hemisphere of access to secure and affordable energy, with consumers paying prices that are fair and predictable.  We also believe that power companies can benefit from investments in renewable energy and can generate electricity in a manner that does not further contribute to global warming or dangerous emissions such as sulfur dioxide, a major ongoing health risk to this island.  As one of our guests from the University of California at Berkeley said this morning “it is possible to create a policy structure and design a system of energy reform so that both the energy utilities and the consumer rate payer benefit.”  The possibilities are truly exciting – cutting edge manufacturing and design, employment opportunities, high-level education, a cleaner environment, lower costs, energy security and sustainability, and of course, economic growth.

In line with this vision, I hope the conversations we have with one another tonight can bring about policy recommendations for Curacao that promote rather than inhibit the introduction of renewables; that entrepreneurs can meet financers with the ability to turn their dreams into reality; and that we can all find common purpose in bringing down energy costs while providing for a healthier and brighter future for Curacao.

And with that, I would again like to welcome you to the Roosevelt House, and now to turn it over to our colleague from the University of California at Berkeley to talk a little about why they are here.