Six Caribbean islands to replace diesel with renewables

At a Summit held last week at Sir Richard Branson’s Caribbean retreat, six Caribbean islands have committed to find ways to replace diesel power with renewable energy and push forward with renewable projects for schools and hospitals.

The British Virgin Islands, Colombia, Dominica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Turks & Caicos have signed onto the ‘Ten Island Renewable Challenge’, a campaign launched by the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute to help flip the Caribbean islands off fossil fuels.

The Summit, held last week in the British Virgin Islands, was attended by representatives of twelve countries, as well as CEOs and executives from over thirty corporations and institutions, including Philips, Johnson Controls, Sungevity, Vestas, NRG, CARICOM, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and The World Bank.

Currently, Caribbean nations lack access to low-cost power because of the small size of their national market and an absence of standardised contracts and regional regulatory systems. In some cases, local energy suppliers, locked in for many years, enjoy a virtual monopoly over the system and creditworthiness is also a challenge for many nations. Consequently, banks have been reticent to lend money for energy projects.

“Islands are a microcosm of larger energy systems around the world and offer an excellent test bed to demonstrate and scale innovative, clean energy solutions,” said Amory Lovins, co-founder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute.

One area that the Summit focused on is how to make hospitals in the Caribbean-basin operate in a more sustainable manner. Because they operate 24-hours a day, hospitals use as much as twice the amount of energy as hotels of the same size do. Air-conditioning, ventilation and lighting represent over 80 per cent of energy use in hospitals. However, solutions for one hospital can be quite time-consuming and complex, said Lyn Tabernacki, managing director of renewable and clean energy programmes at OPIC, a development finance institution run by the U.S. government. Together with Johnson Controls, they have developed standard, pre-engineered modular solutions to fast-track and scale approvals for hospital renewable energy projects.

The commitments from the six Caribbean islands were complemented by news that Virgin Limited Edition and Sir Richard Branson have awarded a contract to U.S. energy giant NRG to transition Necker Island, owned by Branson, on to renewables. “What we hope to do is use Necker as a test island to show how it can be done.”

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