The second Turks and Caicos Energy Forum held at The Ritz-Carlton Resort on Friday, June 2, 2023, provided key insights and engendered riveting discussions on a range of considerations facing the country’s energy sector in its transition to alternative energy sources. The full-day event encompassed a diverse and cross-sectoral array of experts, panel sessions and presentations on topics including access to financing, regulatory reform, labor market trends, affordability and more. This year’s conference theme was 'Changing the Energy Landscape: People. Power. Partnerships.'

KEYNOTE ADDRESS:

ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP: DRIVING FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE


Farayi Chipungu, an Attorney, Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School and Government, and Change Management Expert, delivered a keynote presentation on Adaptive Leadership: Driving Fundamental Change. The energy transition is a multi-year, mega shift from the traditional utility model, and her presentation highlighted research, real-world examples, and core principles to help navigate the energy transition conversation. Among the key takeaways, Chipungu stated: "Adaptive work demands responses outside our current way of thinking. It also requires running small experiments, celebrating, and learning from failures. The work of leadership is not a solo sport. Capacity has to be built across the value chain to execute change...The people with the problem tend to be a part of it but are also the solution." 

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PANEL DISCUSSION:

ADAPTING TO CHANGE: PERILS, PROMISE AND PARTNERSHIPS

FOR THE ENERGY SECTOR


A leadership dialogue on the perils, promise, and partnerships for the energy sector featured panelists Premier Hon. Charles Washington Misick, FortisTCI President and CEO Ruth Forbes, Dr. Carlos Batlle-Lopez, Advisor, and Visiting Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Energy Initiative, Keynote Speaker Farayi Chipungu, moderated by Kenrick Walters, General Manager of Bordier Bank TCI Ltd.

The Premier addressed the fast-moving pace of the energy sector, supply chain challenges, and price trends of alternative energy sources. He stressed that in a world of uncertainty, leaders must know where the megatrends are and preemptively implement policies that could be the nucleus to counteract any negative effects. In her contributions, Mrs. Forbes described the trilemma facing energy providers as balancing reliability, affordability, and sustainability. 

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PANEL DISCUSSION:

SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS: THE REALITIES AND REWARDS


TCI Energy Forum 2023 featured a panel discussion on Sustainable Solutions: The Realities and Rewards, moderated by Devon Cox, Senior Vice President of Operations at FortisTCI. The panelists were Susan Gray, President and CEO at Tucson Electric Power/UNS Energy Corporation, Nils Janson, Managing Director of Policy and Regulation at K&M Advisors, Staffan Wiens, Founder of Mint Lab and Wind Technology Expert, along with Rachell Roullet, Vice President of Innovation, Technology and Strategic Planning at FortisTCI.


The experts shed light on the wide range of variables and tradeoffs that must be considered in the energy transition, such as the environmental impact of the vast amount of land needed to construct utility-scale solar farms, the studies required to make data-based decisions with robust analysis and a coordinated approach, selecting the right technology and offsetting the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy to maintain a reliable electricity service. Various energy sources, battery storage, and the growing adoption of natural gas in the Caribbean to lower carbon emissions and price volatility were cited, but the experts emphasized the need to remain agile.


While sharing TEP's ambitious targets and major shift towards cleaner energy sources in Arizona, USA, Susan Gray stated: "We can't go all in on one technology. These technologies are still developing, and it's about maintaining that flexibility and optionality." She also noted: "There's been a lot of conversation today about affordability. We're closing coal plants that are not fully depreciated [in Arizona]. We're bringing on new renewable resources, wind, solar, and batteries. We're making these investments ahead of the [coal plant] retirements, and even when we retire, we're not totally paid off on those investments. So trying to do this at a pace that our customers can afford is really important."

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ENABLING ENVIRONMENTS: THE IMPACT OF REGULATIONS ON THE SCALE AND SPEED OF THE CLEAN ENERGY TRANSITION


Advisor and Visiting Scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Energy Initiative, Dr. Carlos Battle Batlle-Lopez, delivered a spotlight presentation on how changes to energy sector regulations can create an enabling environment and the importance of maintaining an equilibrium in the electricity sector to prevent inefficient and adverse outcomes. He stressed that a regulatory path has to be designed urgently, and the changes should be gradually introduced to avoid big shocks. Dr. Batlle-Lopez noted that consumers must understand the path and what this means.

 

In the local context, this expert perspective is important as energy sector regulations are decades old, and FortisTCI remains committed to continue working with the relevant stakeholders to advance regulatory reform in the Turks and Caicos Islands as a big step and accelerator of the energy transition.

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PANEL DISCUSSION:

FINANCING THE CLEAN ENERGY TRANSITION


The transition to cleaner energy sources requires millions of dollars in investment. Access to funding to support the transition was examined by another esteemed panel of experts moderated by Christopher Burgess, Projects Director at Rocky Mountain Institute.


The discussion featured Gillian Charles-Gollop, Executive Director of Corporate Banking and Sustainable Finance at CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, Dr. David M. Bynoe, National Coordinator of the Global Environmental Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) at the United Nations Development Programme, Alvin Hegner, Board Chairman at Invest Turks and Caicos, and Shernelle Capron, Director of Financial Services and Supply Chain Management at FortisTCI.


The panel reinforced the utility's need for locally tailored, customized financing solutions and the banks' need for updated energy sector regulations as an important prerequisite to secure green financing. Around 50% of FortisTCI's capital budget this year is committed to clean and transitional energy projects. At the same time, a significant amount has been spent over the past five years to maintain existing assets on the energy grid. It was stressed that financing the clean energy transition requires a coalition of partners, including governments, instead of being solely utility-led.



References were made to successful green funding scenarios in the Caribbean. Gillian Charles-Gollop stated: "The solution is not just one party. We have the commercial bank. We have partners, and we have investors that are ready and willing to invest. What you put in your regulatory framework will help encourage investment and make people feel like the risk they are taking, and the reward is a balanced one, and that is what each of those countries were able to do by reassessing their [regulatory] framework." 

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PANEL DISCUSSION:

PEOPLE POWERED: A LABOR MARKET IN TRANSITION


This group of experts focused on changes in the labor market and the impact of post-pandemic trends such as the great resignation, hybrid work, tech sector lay-offs, and inflationary pressures on reshaping the global labor market, and how to counteract these headwinds.


Dr Candice Williams, President and CEO of TCI Community College, served as moderator, alongside panelists Richard Solomon, Managing Director & Principal Consultant at Development Consulting Center Ltd, Hon. Rachel Taylor, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Social Services, Turks and Caicos Islands, Aisha Laporte, Vice President of Finance, Corporate Services and CFO at FortisTCI, and Bridgette Thomas, Executive Leadership Coach, President and Founder of Strongbridge Solutions.


Richard Solomon talked about the impact of automation on the future of work and stressed that work is no longer a place but "a thing that you do," and there is a demand for favorable conditions, meaningful work, and flexibility as people reevaluate their lives. He emphasized: "It is saying to us that we have to upskill and reskill, and that's not something that should be an event. It should be a way that we live, in organizations and our small island territories where we don't have the kind of resources that the continents do. It should be a way of life, and it doesn't start in organizations. It has to start in schools."



The TCI Education Minister shared several strategies and policy decisions geared towards building and preparing the local human capital for the future of work. FortisTCI shared how it is reshaping its workforce for changes in the energy sector jobs. Bridgette Thomas highlighted challenges that businesses face with employee recruitment and retention and offered solutions to overcome these areas. She recommended a need to create a more diverse employee pool to expand the learning experience, foster shared values and stimulate curiosity when engaging teams.

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PANEL DISCUSSION:

FRONTLINE WORKERS IN ENERGY


Long-standing employees from the Operations Division at FortisTCI took center stage to culminate the program in a panel session, and eloquently shared their stories as some of the people behind the power. The discussion was moderated by Wisland Toussaint, Senior Human Resources Officer at FortisTCI, and featured panelists Kerwin Arthur, Plant Control Shift Supervisor, Tavardo Smith, Electrical Technician III, Durell Landy, Manager of North and Middle Caicos Operations, and Kelorian Forbes, Line Foreman at FortisTCI.


The team received a standing ovation as they expressed pride in working for such an essential service and gave an inside glance of the trials and triumphs of responding to mass outage scenarios, such as adverse weather events. Kelorian and Kerwin shared their heart-throbbing encounters with customers. Durell shared how the company invested in his personal development, while Tavardo reinforced the company’s sustained safety culture and brotherhood among the team, which drives his passion for the job.


The session also emphasized the depth of the company’s investment in both its employees and physical assets over the years, to expand and maintain a highly reliable electricity grid to meet customer needs. 

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SPOTLIGHT ON TECH:

THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY, AI AND MACHINE LEARNING IN THE ENENRGY INDUSTRY


Dervon McKellop, President, Chief Consultant and UAS Pilot at DRIFT Enterprise Services, delivered a spotlight presentation on the use of drone technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning in the energy sector. Drones are impacting the energy sector in major ways - improving efficiency, replacing some manual tasks, and enhancing inspections around the health of power grids by detecting damages, preventing failures, and enabling proactive repairs. Utilizing AI and drone technology can also accelerate ESG goals by providing a greener, safer, and more cost-efficient energy operation.


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PRESENTATION: YOUTH AND ENERGY


Voices of the next generation were present at TCI Energy Forum as top debaters from the FortisTCI National High School Science Debate held this past March, recanted their winning speeches. Maranatha Academy and Holy Family Catholic School defended their positions and advanced their research on the moot: "Without national or global enforcement, achieving greenhouse gas emission targets is unrealistic."

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Turks and Caicos Energy Forum brings together local, regional, and international energy experts, public and private sector decision-makers, and a wide cross-section of stakeholders, to discuss ideas and trends affecting the future of energy. The forum is hosted by FortisTCI, the public energy provider in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Visit www.tcienergyforum.com.