Most small island developing States rely almost completely on imported fossil fuels to meet their energy needs. This dependency leaves the different sectors that rely on the energy system vulnerable to international market fluctuations.
With a view towards achieving sustainable development and addressing the challenges posed by their dependency on fossil fuels, governments have developed a series of policies, regulations and strategies to diversify energy matrices, incorporate new practices that enhance local energy efficiency, and create enabling environments for sustainable energy projects and interventions.
In this regard, transportation is a key sector, as its share of total energy consumption in the Caribbean significantly exceeds the global average. The IMF (2016) estimates that transportation accounts for 36 per cent of the total primary energy consumed in the region, highlighting the importance of increasing energy efficiency in the sector at the same time that other strategies are implemented to improve its performance and sustainability. In this regard, since 2003 governments of the subregion tasked CARICOM with the development of an energy policy that considered improvements in the energy sector as a whole, including transportation.
The Energy Policy approved in 2013 established several direct measures to improve efficiency in the transportation sector, as well as indirect measures that also contribute to its modernization, such as diversification of the energy matrix and accelerated deployment of renewable energies. The main objective for the transportation sector is “to promote fuel switching to cleaner energy sources and encourage energy efficiency.”
However, CARICOM has identified that this sector faces serious data gaps that hinder the elaboration of comprehensive and sustainable transportation policies as there is lack of knowledge on issues such as vehicle registry and fuel use. In an effort to address these gaps, CARICOM highlights the important role that regional and international best practices play in providing guidance for improving efficiency in transportation and mitigating the sector’s heavy reliance on imported fuels.
The present study explores opportunities and challenges to increase energy efficiency in government vehicle fleets through electrification. It identifies international best practices in relation to fleet electrification, suggests the most suitable comprehensive approach for a fleet transition, and recommends the most immediate actions to deploy. Considering the leading role that the public sector plays in promoting the use of renewable energies and enhancing energy efficiency, the study presents a roadmap for government fleet transitions of vehicles that have equivalent alternatives in the market.
As champions of such transition, States will gain the opportunity to assess and upgrade their electric infrastructure and test its readiness to support the introduction of renewable energies. This would also allow countries to introduce institutional, normative, technical and infrastructure modifications and upgrades to set the foundations for an expansion of the transition to public and private transportation in the near future.
Three main phases that could inform a fleet transition have been identified as part of international best practice: readiness, implementation, and follow-up. Within the readiness phase six sub-phases are identified: (i) definition of objectives and goals, (ii) establishment of vehicle eligibility criteria, (iii) fleet assessment, (iv) technology assessment, (v) infrastructure assessment, and (vi) governance assessment.
The implementation phase consists of two sub-phases: technology substitution and operation and maintenance; while the follow-up phase consists of monitoring and verification. Based on a literature review on energy efficiency in transport systems, this study concludes that the Caribbean subregion’s efforts towards fleet transition can be located in the first phase of readiness.
Therefore, the study focuses on establishing criteria to assess the level of readiness and outlines the most relevant components and accomplishments required to carry out the preparatory phase for an energy-efficient fleet transition.