Monthly Archives: February 2014

Caribbean Going Green – Will the Cayman Islands be next?



Comments Off on Caribbean Going Green – Will the Cayman Islands be next?

Filed under branson, otec, solar, wind

Richard Branson Launches A Green Energy Plan For The Caribbean

In 1979, when Richard Branson bought the 74-acre Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, he paid less than $300,000. It was untouched, undeveloped, inhabited only by birds and jungle critters. Back then, no one worried a wit about carbon emissions, ocean acidification, rising sea levels. To bring electricity to his island retreat Branson, like virtually everyone else on the small islands of the Caribbean, installed diesel generators.

Necker Island

As far as fuels go, diesel is hard to beat. It’s easy to transport and contains a lot of energy in a small volume. It’s already ubiquitous in the islands as fuel for boats. And it’s never been cleaner, with U.S. government standards limiting sulfur content to no more than 15 parts per million. For decades, diesel was simply the way to go.

But Branson wants to change that. Because running on diesel means that the cost of electricity on Caribbean islands averages about 50 cents per kwh, about five times what it is on the mainland United States.

In early February, Branson leveraged his star power to convene a three-day meeting of dignitaries from 13 Caribbean nations including the Virgin Island, St. Kitts & Nevis, Turks & Caicos and the Cayman Islands. While enjoying both Necker Island and Branson’s neighboring Moskito Island, they discussed the costs of powering their island homes and the economics of switching over to clean, green renewable energy.

Working with The Carbon War Room (an anti-carbon group he co-founded) as well as the energy experts at the Rocky Mountain Institute, Branson is promoting something called the 10 Island Renewable Challenge. The idea is to get the island nations of the Caribbean to switch away from diesel. The argument is simple: going carbon-free won’t just help keep the air clean and reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — it will save lots of money too.

To help the cause, Carbon War Room and RMI have worked with the World Bank and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to earmark $300 million for new renewable energy projects in the islands.

Necker Island will be the first to make that shift. Within three years Branson aims to be using solar and wind, with battery backup, to provide for 80% of Necker’s energy needs, with a long-term goal of 100%. Branson has contracted with NRG EnergyNRG Energy to build Necker’s renewable micro-grid.

“What we hope to do is use Necker as a test island to show how it can be done,” said Branson in a statement. “The only way we’re going to win this war is by creative entrepreneurship.”

Among the world’s CEOs and billionaires, Branson has real environmentalist cred. Sure the founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Airways, and now Virgin Galactic is responsible for millions of tons of carbon emissions over the years. But he’s been trying to make up for it. As early as 2008 his airline flew a Boeing Boeing 747 from London to Amsterdam on a low-carbon fuel made of babassu oil and coconut oil. He’s also a backer of the new solar-powered airplane SolarImpulse.

Jon Creyts, a managing director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, was in attendance at the conference, and shared with the group RMI’s research on just how much sense it makes for the islands to shift from diesel. According to Creyts, when you factor in the costs of fuel, transmission and capital investment, the average cost of electricity in the Caribbean ranges from 32 cents to 65 cents per kwh. That’s as much as five times what the average American pays for electricity. Most of that cost is in the diesel; a 1,000 kw diesel generator running at 100% capacity gulps about 70 gallons in an hour. That equates to .07 gallons per kwh. At current diesel prices in the Virgin Islands of $3.50 per gallon that comes out to 25 cents per kwh in diesel.

Compare that with the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s figures for the all-in costs of other generation methods. Gas turbines can do about 7 cents per kwh, offshore wind 22 cents, and solar photovoltaic 14 cents.

The increased costs of building in isolated locations might add a couple cents per kwh, but overall it’s hard to argue that the islands should stick with diesel. Even before Richard Branson’s new efforts, Aruba had worked with RMI and Carbon War Room to institute a green energy revolution. In recent years Aruba invested $300 million to build a 20-turbine wind farm rated at 30 mw that meets 20% of the island’s power needs. It replaced its old electric turbines with more efficient models, and is building a solar panel park. Since beginning its efforts in 2006 Aruba has reduced its imports of heavy fuel oil from 3,000 barrels per day to 1,700 barrels, saving some $50 million a year.

The U.S. Virgin Islands had taken tentative steps toward solar, signing long-term deals with solar developers to buy power from three systems with peak capacity of 18 mw. That will meet about 18% of the territory’s peak demand. A 20-year deal with Toshiba Toshiba will cost an average of 17 cents per kwh. The islands also require that all new construction use solar power for hot water heating.

It sounds good, but even on the islands, reality is a challenge. According to a study last year by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar developers need an average of 10 acres of land to put up 1 mw of solar panels. That implies that if the U.S. Virgin Islands were to go totally solar and replace its two big oil-burning generators that put out about 100 mw around the clock, they would likely need at least 1,500 acres of land (or roofs) covered in panels, a bunch of wind turbines to provide power at night, plus some sort of ingenious energy storage system smooth out the peaks. That could be doable on St. Croix, which consists of about 53,000 acres and the 1,500-acre Hovensa oil storage terminal on its south side. A 1,100-acre chunk of land adjacent to the terminal is now in process of being cleaned up and redeveloped.

An even better idea for the very long term is for these islands to tap their enormous and endless domestic energy opportunity: geothermal. Most of the islands in the eastern Caribbean were formed by volcanic action. The volcano on Montserrat erupted violently in 1997, killing 19. Because they are located close to the boundaries of two tectonic plates, the islands have plenty of natural volcanic heat that they could tap at relatively shallow depths. Already Iceland Drilling Company, based in the world’s capital of geothermal energy, is reportedly working on exploratory geothermal projects in Dominica and Montserrat. Projects are also being drawn up for Nevis and St. Vincent.

In time each of these islands could be powered by steam turbines running on virtually endless supplies of cheap energy harnessed from the Earth’s own internal furnace.

But solar, wind and geothermal are all expensive. Another part of the challenge, says Creyts, who was a McKinsey consultant before joining RMI, is that most of the Caribbean islands have pretty lackluster credit ratings and not much borrowing capacity. Indeed, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda all have public debt loads approaching or surpassing 100% of GDP. That’s why it was so vital to get the World Bank and OPIC on board to help arrange low-cost financing.

There’s no shortage of potential projects for the islands to pursue, with energy-hungry hotels, hospitals and schools offering the lowest-hanging fruit. Naturally, there’s plenty of corporate partners ready to help the islands make the shift. Executives from Philips, Johnson Controls, Sungevity, Vestas and NRG were present at the Necker Island retreat.

There’s some incentive for these island nations to think about moving a little quicker in their renewables plans. Many Caribbean nation’s have joined the PetroCaribe pact created by Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez, whereby Venezuela has for years sent them discounted oil. Though Chavez’ successor Nicolas Maduro has continued the oil discounts, there is concern that amid Venezuela’s slow-motion economic collapse the largesse will soon end, forcing the islands to pay more on the world market.

Renewable, carbon-free energy doesn’t yet make economic sense in the most densely inhabited parts of the world that are already well served by reliable energy sources. But islands like these represent a motivated laboratory of energy evolution. In time, the lessons learned in the islands will be ripe for application across the other energy-starved corners of the world. More


Comments Off on Richard Branson Launches A Green Energy Plan For The Caribbean

Filed under energy security, SIDS, solar, wind

International Year of SIDS Launched


The International Year of SIDS was launched this morning by PM of Samoa, President of General Assembly, UN Secretary General, President of Nauru and USG of UNSIDS Conference. The event was emceed by Ambassador Jumeau of Seychelles. A great start to build momentum towards UNSIDS Conference in August 2014 focused on genuine and durable partnerships.


Comments Off on International Year of SIDS Launched

Filed under SIDS

Richard Branson Wants Caribbean Islands to Swap Diesel for Renewables

Dirty diesel is the most common form of electricity generation throughout Caribbean island nations, but that will change if billionaire Richard Branson has anything to do with it.

Branson is using his private island in the British Virgin Islands, Necker Island, as a test bed for a microgrid that will run on renewable generation. The project on Necker, which is supported by NRG Energy, is not just an exercise in bringing renewables to the region at any cost. It aims to make renewables affordable to island economies.

“What we’ve learned in the renewable world is everyone wants to save the world,” David Crane, NRG’s chief executive, told The New York Times. “But very few people want to pay more for energy.” The average price of electricity in the Caribbean is about four times higher than it is in the mainland United States.

The push for clean energy is the core mission of the Ten Island Renewable Challenge led by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit founded by Branson. The problem for most islands is that the upfront cost of renewable technology and storage is relatively expensive given that most island nations have small populations. Because the projects are relatively small, compared to projects in the US or Europe, it can be difficult to get financing.

At the same time, however, islands across the globe depend on diesel, which makes electricity incredibly expensive compared to regions that rely on other fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas. Hawaii, for example, has the highest electricity rates in the United States, about double the price of the next closest state.

Branson's challenge in the Caribbean already has the support of Aruba, British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and Turks and Caicos. Aruba, for example, already has a wind farm and is planning more.

Other islands are looking at solar, wind, LED lighting for municipal applications, waste-to-energy, and geothermal. For years, Barbados has been toying with the idea of using a special breed of sugar cane for co-generation, but has yet to invest in a large-scale project. Late last year, Puerto Rico mandated energy storage to go with wind and solar projects on the island, which could be a model for other islands if it is successful.

On the 74-acre Necker Island, the microgrid will combine wind, solar, and batteries that can support about 80 percent of the island’s energy requirements. On small islands, like Necker, microgrids may seem like a natural solution, but cost remains an issue if they are powered by renewables.

Although the cost of renewables have come down, and might be competitive with expensive diesel power, intermittent renewable energy requires expensive storage and sophisticated controls to balance grid conditions on that small of a scale.

Branson has the will and the deep pockets to invest in such a project, but the results will have to be replicable at a price that non-billionaire utility customers can afford on other islands.

Some of the solutions may be in attractive financing, rather than in proving the technology. In some places, subsidies for diesel make it more affordable and if those are ended, renewables look more attractive. Short-term tax benefits for renewables can also help to get projects off the ground. The Carbon War Room said it would help islands with assistance in attracting project engineers and financiers.

“There’s tens of thousands of islands burning diesel fuel that’s really destroying their economies because it’s so expensive,” Crane told the The New York Times.

Branson is hoping for quick results, and not just on Necker Island. “We're hoping to get a number of islands to sign up to get as carbon-neutral as they can over the next few years,” Branson told “Immediately afterwards,” he wrote in a blog post, “we want to head to the Pacific Islands and implement everything we will have learned.” More


Comments Off on Richard Branson Wants Caribbean Islands to Swap Diesel for Renewables

Filed under SIDS

The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo – Call for Papers’

The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo

Co-located with the Islands Innovation Summit & Showcase/ Pacific Defense Energy Summit & Showcase

September 15-17, 2014

Honolulu Convention Center, Honolulu, HI

The event is the preeminent meeting place for international leaders and energy experts at the forefront of the clean energy movement. Securing energy independence and developing a clean energy industry that promotes the vitality of our planet are two reasons why it is critical to reaffirm already established partnerships and build new ones throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the world. The summit will provide a forum for the high-level global networking necessary to advance this emerging clean energy culture.

'Call for Papers' Submission deadlines:

Panel Proposals – Due March 28th

Islands Innovation Challenge & Defense Energy Challenge – Due May 31st

For further information, partnerships, island/community showcase, or group programs, please contact Regina Ramazzini at

Comments Off on The Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo – Call for Papers’

Filed under alternative, energy, SIDS, solar, wind

Pacific island states ‘must think beyond grid to electrify’

JAKARTA, Indonesia —- Despite advances in research and development on renewable energy, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific remain the most energy-poor in the world, with an estimated 70 per cent of the population still without access to reliable energy.

A paper from the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University lays the blame on the pervasive focus on traditional approaches to rural electrification that prioritise grid extension. Grid extensions connect a home to a local utility grid.

But extending the grid lines in the Pacific region whose populations are spread across tens of thousands of islands may not be suitable and cost effective, the paper says.

“Both utility agencies and the private sector need incentives to extend electricity grids and to set up off-grid systems in rural areas. To provide those incentives, government subsidisation of upfront costs is necessary instead of merely subsidising operation and maintenance costs,” says Matthew Dornan, the primary author of the report.

Dornan says off-grid electrification projects, which involve mainly renewable energy, may be more sustainable in the long term. However, it requires significant upfront costs that are often impossible for local households or government to shoulder, he says.

“In terms of off-grid technologies, the key is simplicity,” explains Dornan. “Technologies should only be installed where they can be supported by institutional arrangements, be that a utility agency or a community technician.”

Renewables may play a stronger role in low-density, off-grid networks, but only with large-scale support, experts say.

According to Linus Mofor, a spokesperson for the International Renewable Energy Agency, “institutional strengthening, increased collaboration among islands and enhanced coordination of development partners, donors, regional institutions and national authorities and institutions are essential for efficient use of resources for renewables deployment in the region.”

Though his paper focused on SIDS, Dornan believes that his findings can help governments and development institutions alike in tackling the challenges of energy poverty.

“Sub-Saharan African and Pacific island countries can learn from one another given the capacity constraints that governments in both regions share,” he notes. More


Comments Off on Pacific island states ‘must think beyond grid to electrify’

Filed under SIDS

Utilities: Survival course for dinosaurs (advice from one of our own

Steve Klein recently served as a utility industry panelist at a conference where he introduced himself as a living, breathing dinosaur. It was not his intent to imply that he was really old, or not hip to the latest trends. Rather, he was making the point that this description was now being applied to electric power utility executives..

Citibank published a report titled “Energy Darwinism” that led industry analyst Jesse Berst to coin the prophetic phrase “Utilities are Dinosaurs Waiting to Die.” The original report argues that the utility industry’s dismissive attitude toward disruptive technological changes mirrors that of those who failed to recognize the game-changing impact of the Internet and cell phones. The report suggests that today’s electric power utilities could lose a substantial portion of their market to energy efficiency, solar, and other distributed generation technologies. Citibank further emphasized that history tells us such changes are never gradual.

Earlier this year, Marlene Motyka, an alternative energy advisor for Deloitte LLP, wrote an op-ed titled, “Why We Should Pity Utilities.” She highlighted the fact that utility “companies are caught in a vise: squeezed by simultaneously rising expenses combined with falling demand for electricity.”

Motyka was only addressing a portion of the vise. To complete the entire squeeze play, you also have to factor in legislative and regulatory pressure on utilities to fund large expansions of the nation’s transmission grid, as well as renewable portfolio standards, to ultimately promote large-scale commercial wind and solar development that likely will only add to the oversupply problem.

As I write this I am reminded of a clean tech venture capitalist who served with me on a panel that was charged with helping the previous governor of Washington establish a state energy strategy. Every time I made what I thought was an insightful comment from the utility perspective, he would whisper sarcastically to me, “Spoken like a true power company executive.” The electric utility industry is being accused today of resisting consumer demands by protecting its traditional business model in much the same way that Ma Bell sought to maintain control of its big black rotary telephone. Are we simply protectionists or dinosaurs that don’t want to adapt and accommodate technological advancement? Are we irrationally trying to preserve our version of the rotary phone?

I don’t want to be perceived like Ma Bell, but I do believe there are foundational elements of our industry that were put in place years ago and have served the nation and its citizens well. Unlike other parts of the world, everyone in America has access to safe, reliable, and affordable electricity at the flick of a switch. On the other hand, I would argue that we must adapt to the changing needs of our customers even if that means facilitating the application of new technologies that threaten our traditional business model.

I believe the best strategy going forward also happens to reflect my view of where we are heading as an industry. First of all, conservation and renewables are a legacy of the Pacific Northwest and should continue to be the first and foremost tools in our tool belt. As public utilities, we need to lead the way in making sure our communities are economically and ecologically sustainable through wise and efficient use of resources. Consumer-owned utilities do not exist merely to sell kilowatts and return generous cash dividends to detached shareholders; our dividends are evident through our unique values of local control, economic development, environmental and community stewardship, and overall quality of life. Public power utilities will have to become more creative to continue to be able to sustain strong conservation programs despite flat or declining energy load.

Utilities should also embrace the fact that a growing number of their customers want to avail themselves of distributed resources such as solar. We should develop community- based programs to educate and assist those who want to participate directly in supporting local renewable generating sources. Such programs can provide education and appropriate incentives as well as promote local economic development, similar to the many successful public power conservation efforts.

Rather than simply saying “no” to those in your community who look to the local utility for guidance, you should find ways to say “yes.” You can structure your program and rate design to address the potential revenue and nonparticipant impacts. I don’t expect distributed generation to grow as fast and have as large an impact in the Northwest as other parts of the country because of our comparatively low retail rates and underlying renewable resource base made up of non-carbon-emitting hydro. Resistance is not the best approach; it is better to work with customers, legislators, and regulators to meet this growing consumer interest. Our proactive stance will position us to better influence the solutions to adequately address reliability, safety, and economic impacts.

I see our role as power utilities changing over the ensuing years, but I also see certain fundamental aspects remaining unchanged in terms of utilities remaining mass market service providers. The grid system will become more and more complex, developing a multitude of interfaces with variable distributed generation as well as innovative service offerings and pricing schemes ranging from demand response to energy storage. This represents a challenging area upon which all electric utilities should be strategically focused. More buildings will become smart; they will have their own generating sources and energy management systems, and will be able to communicate on a real-time basis. The local distribution utility will still provide some level of central station generation, but it will be supplemented by local distributed generation as well as strategically sited utility- and customer-owned energy storage.

I think lots of people are interested in environmental sustainability and are willing to have a passively managed solar panel on their roof, but most consumers are not interested in becoming experts and committing the time necessary to effectively manage inverters, batteries, communications protocols, etc. That’s where the local utility comes in. We can provide a smart grid system that has the ability to balance and optimize all of the inputs and outputs to ensure that each customer has the energy they need when they need it.

We can no longer be satisfied with our form of Ma Bell’s black rotary dial phone, which is represented by an unsophisticated, one-way electric system highway. We cannot ignore the interests of our customers, who are demanding technological change and the provisioning of new services. With change comes opportunity, and I believe public power is well positioned to lead the way to the future utility service model, rather than going extinct like the brontosaurus and the black rotary telephone.

Steve Klein is the general manager of Snohomish County PUD in Everett, Wash. He can be contacted at More




Comments Off on Utilities: Survival course for dinosaurs (advice from one of our own

Filed under alternative, renewable, solar, wind

Wind of change sweeps through energy policy in the Caribbean

Aruba in the southern Caribbean has 107,000 people, a lot of wind and sun and, until very recently, one very big problem. Despite the trade winds and sunshine, it was spending more than 16% of its economy on importing 6,500 barrels of diesel fuel a day to generate electricity. People were furious at the tripling of energyprices in 10 years and the resulting spiralling costs of imported water and food.

A juice cafe in Tortola BVI

That changed at the Rio earth summit in 2012, when the prime minister, Mike Eman, announced that the former oil-producing Dutch island close to Venezuela planned to switch to 100% renewables by 2020.

Working with the independent US energy group the Rocky Mountain Institute and the business NGO Carbon War Room, Aruba ditched its old steam turbines for more efficient engines and changed the way it desalinated seawater.

Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

It cost $300m (£183m), says the energy minister and deputy PM Mike D'Emeza, but Aruba immediately halved its fuel consumption and saved itself $85m a year. It then built a 30MW wind farm and cut its diesel consumption a further 50%. Now it is planning another wind farm and a large solar park. By 2020, Aruba will be free from fossil fuels and possibly storing renewable electricity under water or using ice.

The move to energy independence has had dramatic results, says De Meza. Electricity prices, which were US 33c/ KwH in 2009, have dropped 25% and are stable; inflation has been reversed; the island has nearly paid off the $300m it cost to switch out of diesel; the price of drinking water has fallen by almost a third; and the number of people unable to pay their bills has declined drastically.

“We had been grappling with very high energy costs for 15 years. We realised that our dependency on fossil fuels was leading to political and economic instability. We had to act,” De Meza says.

Aruba is already enjoying health and economic benefits. More tourists are keen to visit a green island, he adds, and children are fitter because it costs families less to pay for sports, and there is less illness. “It has been very popular. Instead of energy prices being the top of the political agenda, the debate now is about which is the best renewable energy source Aruba should go for next.”

Many other Caribbean islands are eager to follow Aruba. Some in the region pay more than 42c/ kwh – three or four times the price paid in most of the US and Europe – and up to 25% of their GDP on diesel for electricity.

Many are also locked into long-term contracts with monopolistic US or Canadian utility companies which have negotiated 17% or even higher guaranteed profit margins.

With many states also having to pay off onerous long-term loans to regional banks, the net effect of high power costs is continual misery, says Nicholas Robson, director of the Cayman Institute think tank. “People are coming to me saying they cannot afford electricity. It costs 42c [US$] in the Caymans. It's approaching a crisis point. People are struggling because of energy prices.”

“We are very concerned about the high cost of energy and how it affects jobs,” BVI prime minister Orlando Smith adds.

“We pay 38c/ KwH,” says James Fletcher, St Lucia's energy and science minister. “The result is that industries like tourism, which are very heavy electricity users, are not competitive, our agriculture cannot move out of being just primary commodity producers, and our people have no money.”

St Lucia plans over the next 10 years to switch much of its electricity from diesel to renewables, using geothermal, wind and solar power. The government will make it easier for people to generate their own electricity to reduce diesel demand, and changing street lights to LEDs could reduce costs by $11m a year, he explains.

“Renewables will provide new jobs, everyone will have more money in their pockets, transport will be cheaper and companies will be able to expand more easily,” Fletcher says.

“Islands can get prices down to just 12c/ KwH,” says Ed Bosage, a wealthy American financier who bought the small island of Over Yonder Cay and who has switched it to 96% renewables with wind, solar and a tidal generator. “The wind blows at an average of 16 knots. The tidal is extremely reliable. We learned that wind trumps sun by 2:1. We now produce electricity for 12c, the cheapest in the Caribbean, and will get it cheaper. It's repeatable everywhere,” he says.

Caribbean islands share similar problems to thousands of others in the Pacific and elsewhere. Mostly, they are not on national grids, which makes them vulnerable to high energy costs, fuel has to be imported at extra cost, and they are often reliant on just one utility company and most are too small to benefit from economies of scale.

While some can attract high-spending tourists and offshore finance companies, small island states are often heavily indebted, with weak economies, pockets of intense poverty and often rundown hospitals and schools.

But, says Peter Lilienthal, director of Colorado-based Homer Energy and former US national energy laboratory chief, islands stand to benefit from the renewable revolution more than anyone. “Diesel is now hurting small islands. They are burning money. But the price of solar has plummeted in the last few years. It's now cost-efficient everywhere. Islands now can be the leaders.”

Jamaica is investing heavily in wind, Barbados in solar power and eight island states – Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos,and the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andreas have joined the Carbon War Room's “10 island challenge”. This gives them access to technological and funding help from the Rocky Mountain Institute and others.

“Renewables have come slowly to the Caribbean and other developing countries but the technology is now cheap enough and diverse enough to make it much easier to install,” says Amory Lovins, chief scientist at the Rocky Mountain Institute. “Small islands can move fast if they have coherent policies. They can be the future.” More


Comments Off on Wind of change sweeps through energy policy in the Caribbean

Filed under energy, fuel, SIDS

Caribbean Islands Agree to Swap Diesel Power for Renewable Sources

Necker Island

Several Caribbean nations committed on Thursday to start replacing diesel generators, the most common means of producing electricity on islands, with renewable sources like wind, solar or the earth’s heat.

Sir Richard Branson

The countries, which have already taken steps toward developing the new energy projects and include St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands, signed the pact at a multiday meeting organized by the Carbon War Room, a nonprofit organization that Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, established to fight climate change.

As part of the effort, Mr. Branson announced on Tuesday a deal with the independent power producer NRG Energy to install solar and wind power on Necker Island, a private enclave he owns, to cover about 80 percent of the power needs. Islands throughout the Caribbean have extremely high electricity costs, and the new renewable projects can help reduce them sharply, he said.

“What we hope to do is use Necker as a test island to show how it can be done,” he said in an interview. “The only way we’re going to win this war is by creative entrepreneurship,” to make the price of clean energy cheaper than that of energy from fossil fuels.

“What we’ve learned in the renewable world is everyone wants to save the world,” said David W. Crane, NRG’s chief executive, “but very few people want to pay more for energy.”

The cluster of nations, like islands elsewhere, have lacked access to low-cost power because of the small size of the market — the British Virgin Islands’ population, for example, is around 31,000 — and a dearth of up-to-date infrastructure and equipment, said José María Figueres, a former president of Costa Rica who is now president of the Carbon War Room. On many islands, he said, a longstanding supplier has a virtual monopoly over the system.

Lynn Tabernacki, managing director of renewable and clean energy programs at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, said that persuading banks to lend money for energy projects had been a challenge because the projects were often too small or they lacked standardized contracts and regulations. She has been advising developers and government officials to help clear those hurdles.

The effort at the Carbon War Room — which aims to sign up 10 islands looking to move away from diesel without turning to natural gas — started with Aruba.

There, a wind farm is up and running, and more are on the way. There are also plans for solar arrays and experimental storage systems involving underwater compressed air and flywheels, said Peter Lilienthal, chief executive of Homer Energy, a technical adviser to the Caribbean program.

The British Virgin Islands is looking into using waste-to-energy plants and has already started changing streetlights to more efficient LEDs. It has also created a climate change policy and is establishing an environmental trust fund that would be financed by fees or taxes collected from residents and visitors, said Kedrick D. Pickering, deputy premier.

St. Lucia has been testing the use of solar on various buildings, but it also plans to explore wind and geothermal development, said James Fletcher, minister for sustainable development and energy.

“With our economy, with the level of unemployment that we have, if you can create some more green jobs, if you can reduce some of the expenditures that we’re seeing right now, particularly on oil, it would increase the island’s economic competitiveness,” he said,

The Necker Island project still needs the approval of regulators in the British Virgin Islands, but it seeks to establish a microgrid made up of solar, wind and battery technologies. It is also to include energy-efficiency and control software to help reduce overall energy use and balance supply and demand on the grid.

Mr. Crane said NRG would pursue similar projects throughout the Caribbean and, eventually, in the United States once the costs came down.

Mr. Lilienthal said that creating microgrids fueled by renewable energy is still too expensive for most of the United States, but that it made sense for the Caribbean and remote places like Alaska.

“There’s tens of thousands of islands burning diesel fuel that’s really destroying their economies because it’s so expensive,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”


Comments Off on Caribbean Islands Agree to Swap Diesel Power for Renewable Sources

Filed under solar, wind