May 2021 unplugged many firsts for the Jamaican electric vehicle sector! That month, the utility launched its first public electric vehicle charging facility, and a new market entrant commissioned four additional public charging stations. Barbados, in comparison, has turned into the top user of electric vehicles per capita in the Caribbean, with over 430 EVs on the island’s road.
The transport sector is a major source of fossil fuel consumption in the Caribbean. In Jamaica, it represents 37% of the fuel consumption, 36% in the Dominican Republic, and 33% in Barbados (IDB, the Inter-American Dialogue, and OAS, 2020). However, the emerging potential for renewables, declining batteries costs, and governments implementing incentives create the opportunity to ultimately reduce Caribbean countries’ dependence on fossil fuels.
Electric mobility is gaining momentum in the Caribbean region as governments implement incentives to reduce carbon emissions and electrify the transport sector. The Caribbean can benefit up to US$2.2 billion in fuel savings by switching to EVs over the next 20 years. As such, governments are fostering partnerships with utilities and the private sector to boost the deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure that can support the region’s shifts towards full decarbonization.
In the United States, the Biden Administration has pledged strong commitments of net-zero emissions by 2050 and significant investments of US$2.25 trillion to promote green energy and decarbonization. One of the initiatives the Administration will focus on is the installation of over 500,000 EV charging stations, deploying electric buses and EV rebates to support vehicle electrification while promoting training and installation standards that will create over 1 million new jobs.
Jamaica’s strategies to bring key players and incentivize the electric mobility
The number of charging ports catapulted from zero to five in Jamaica this year, allowing EV owners to have less range anxiety while traveling across the island. For Jamaica to tap into the potential savings from e-mobility, the sector has to develop policies, incentives, and regulations not just for the operability of the charging infrastructure but also to foster a dynamic business model that encourages participation from multiple players.
To support the review and implementation of policies, regulations, and fiscal incentives related to the development of the EV ecosystem, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ), has established an EV Council chaired by the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology (MSET). The EV Council also consists of representatives from other public institutions, the utility, the regulator, and the private sector automobile industry. In addition, the Council provides an avenue for greater collaboration with the private sector to implement measures that indicate to both international and local automobile investors that Jamaica is EV-ready.
The IDB and IDB Lab, in partnership with the Government of Japan, has provided grant resources of US$1.5 million in 2019 to implement a Two-Phase E-Mobility Support to the GOJ to encourage early adoption of EVs while creating an enabling ecosystem. In 2021, the IDB proposed a roadmap to the EV Council on the immediate actions needed to advance e-mobility in Jamaica, including a reduction in import duties and implementing a temporary EV Cap to incentivize short-run progress.
The shift towards electric vehicles is inevitable
The IDB recognized the importance of illustrating the tangible benefits derived from electrification by conducting an EV Pilot and facilitating training workshops and communication forums. The pilot will import six fully electric vehicles consisting of passenger and delivery vans and SUVs to deploy in the private sector fleet for 12-months under the Sustainable Transport and Renewable-Energy Powered Electric Mobility Support to Jamaica Project. Additionally, the pilot will conduct fleet assessments to assess the business case and benefits of integrating EVs into the public sector fleet and develop the business and financing models for future procurement of EVs for fleet renewal. The GOJ will also participate in the EV Pilot in order to support their decision-making.
The IDB Lab has partnered with JPS Foundation to execute the initial e-mobility ecosystem initiatives to complement the IDB’s project. The Building a Sustainable Electric Mobility Ecosystem for Inclusion and Access Project aims to install ten public charging stations; train 400 individuals in the maintenance and safety of EV technologies; develop an EV Fund; support 15 green innovative business models to leverage emerging technologies, including vehicle-to-grid, emergency backup power, and battery recycling program.
This project will also provide training for women entrepreneurs within the e-mobility sector. The deployment of charging infrastructure powered by renewables (RE) will assist the GOJ to achieve its target of 50% RE by 2037. The IDB also supports the Generation Procurement Entity (GPE) by developing competitive procurement guidelines to attract robust and bankable proposals for new RE sources.
Advancement of E-Mobility in the Dominican Republic and Barbados
Across the Caribbean, we have other examples of how policies and incentives have spurred the growth of transport electrification. In the Dominican Republic, the Government has reduced duties and registration fees for EVs by 50%, which allowed the number of EVs to increase almost ninefold.
Barbados has implemented policies and incentives to support its target to achieve a 49% reduction in fossil fuel by electrifying 100% of its buses and public fleet, which can generate US$200-400 million in savings. As the country leads the region as top users of EV per capita, this energy mix transformation can help contribute to a cleaner environment and reduce oil importation.
Tapping into the expansion of electric vehicles within the Caribbean will create jobs needed to forge a modern, greener, and equitable clean energy future for every Caribbean.