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Remarks by the Vice President at Maritima Solar

Location: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's a pleasure to be here, and I want to thank you for showing me the remarkable job you've done here. And energy security is vital for every nation. You see it around the world, and energy dependence is a very difficult place to find yourself as a nation. Indeed, it's quite frankly a matter of national security around the world.

I've spent a considerable amount of time in the last two months in Ukraine. You see what the Russians are doing relative to using gas as a foreign policy tool to try to alter behavior. And so it's -- around the world in varying degrees it's of significant consequence in terms of security, both economic and political security of a nation.

But here in the Caribbean, the energy costs are the highest in the hemisphere. The entire hemisphere, they're most expensive here in the Caribbean, and everybody feels it. For all the families that live here, it drains government budgets. And it holds back economic growth. Island nations face unique challenges when it comes to energy. They often depend on imports. They struggle to find economies of scale. And as a result, they sometimes end up with the most expensive and dirty fuel as a source of energy.

Of course, each country is unique -- with its own opportunities and its own challenges. But there is -- so there's no one-size-fits-all program initiative relative to energy that can be applied.

But for example, for some the answer will lie in natural gas. For others, the abundance of sun, wind, and geothermal or a combination of all of the above. But there is on common denominator for every island nation. For any country that hopes to succeed, it requires the creation of an open, transparent, market-based, clear set of rules applied equally all the time because that provides the incentive for the private sector to make the investments that build the infrastructure that's required for a more secure energy future for this entire region.

But it's easier said than done. I know some of you reporters have a significant amount of -- questions. It's more easily said than done.

There are those inside your countries and outside with a vested interest in defending the status quo. In some cases that includes outright corruption and graft. And I'm here today that any country willing to take difficult steps that are required, the reforms that are required, are willing to put in place the rules and the institutions required to find willing partners, they will find willing partners in the United States to help them turn that commitment into tangible change.

And here's what we are ready to do, the United States. First, the United States will provide direct technical assistance and expertise to create the (inaudible) environments that attract investments. Let me say it another way, without them, you cannot attract investments.

The Caribbean as a whole needs $12 billion in new investments to meet the energy demands by 2035. It needs $12 billion of new investment. The private sector can and will mobilize. But they have to be convinced first that there's a regulatory climate that is predictable, that is transparent, that is fair, and one that allows them to make a fair return on their investment. Otherwise, they will not invest. And there's a need for $12 billion in new investment.

The second thing we're prepared to do is the overseas -- and I realize this sounds very technical, but it's a reality, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, so called OPIC, will dedicate resources to the Caribbean to facilitate deals that match U.S. government financing with strong energy projects. We'll match the two: strong energy projects and U.S. government financing through targeted loans, through guarantees and other credit enhancements. U.S. development financing can help unlock the supply of private sector capital for the new projects that are badly needed here in the Caribbean.

Thirdly, the United States will work with regional partners to align and coordinate the energy initiatives of the international financial institutions in an effort to eliminate waste and duplication and to increase diversity of financial instruments that support energy projects. That includes the World Banka and other institutions. We will help. We can help facilitate that.

Fourthly, to demonstrate that these changes are not just possible but profoundly beneficial, the United States is about to select one country as a pilot project. This project will help address energy sector reforms from A to Z, the entire panorama of needs from developing a new regulatory framework that is efficient and free of corruption, to identifying the appropriate energy solution (inaudible) the needs of that country, and to promoting an effective financial model that can attract investment.

We'll have teams ready to go to work with that country immediately to help take all these steps that I have just described.

And finally, I'm pleased to announce today that I'll be convening Caribbean leaders this fall along with the donors and financial institutions to help coordinate our efforts to review the progress that has been made and what needs to be done. There's a bottom-line need here, folks. The infrastructure need is great. The energy needs are great. Economic and political security depends on it, but it requires the private sector to know that there's a predictable regime within which they can operate free of corruption, transparent and one where they can get a return on their investment.

We have a great deal of experience in this area, and we can help incentivize these kinds of investments. I'll end where I began. There's a need for $12 billion in investment in energy projects here in the Caribbean. Absent that, there's going to be a significant problem for each of the countries in question.

So in conclusion, the challenges are real, but they're also real solutions. They're not solutions that will come overnight, but they can come quickly. Most of them are not glamorous. And I'm sure I've already bored you with the detail of the kinds of the things that have to be done. But it's a reality. These things must be done. But when they are done, where they have been done, they've been proven to work. They've been done and proven elsewhere. And we know they work. And sometimes our friends in other countries need the -- how can I say it? The practical, technical expertise to know how to go about establishing these regimes.

The people on these islands deserve a future with affordable, reliable, clean energy, where the electric bill doesn't bankrupt a family or quite frankly bankrupt a nation's budget; where leadership now lays the groundwork for energy security for generations to come.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's already beginning to happen here in the DR. And together, we can make it happen all over the Caribbean, to give this country and this region a more secure, more sustainable and more prosperous future -- energy. Energy that requires a change in the regulatory regime to get it done. And we will be all in as countries agree to do just that.

Thank you all so very much. And I want to congratulate you all on a first-rate project. I know you all know this, but because of the laws and regulations here that were passed in a poor-sighted way, there has been an (inaudible) in these solar panels. And right now as we speak, correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. President, but you are not consuming all the energy you're generating. And you're able to sell it back to the grid, and actually sell it back. It accommodates a need that the grid overall needs more energy, and it's economically feasible. And it makes it more affordable all the way around.

So I want to compliment you on a great job. Thank you for taking what is -- I don't know if that's big a risk, but stepping forward and seeing the opportunity.

Well, you do help the ecology. I haven't even gotten into the environmental side of this, which is profound. But if there's any place in the world that take advantage of renewable energy, it's the Caribbean. Sun, wind, geothermal, you are sort of in the paradise of renewable energy. We got to (inaudible). Thank you all so very, very much.

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