Bahamas Takes On Renewable Energy Challenge

A Caribbean ‘Treasure Island’ is in prospect as more island nations look to renewable energies.
Published: Tue 06 Jan 2015

Bahamas has become the latest nation to join up to the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute’s Ten Island Challenge to accelerate its transition from a heavy dependence on fossil fuels to renewable energy resources.

“The Bahamas’s entry into the Challenge signals another huge step forward for the Caribbean region in the effort towards a clean energy future,” said Carbon War Room founder Sir Richard Branson in a statement.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency objectives

In a memorandum of understanding with the Carbon War Room, Bahamas has committed to focusing on four projects towards achieving their renewable energy goals:

● Developing more than 20MW of solar PV generation across the Family Islands

● Bringing energy efficiency and solar solutions to Anatol Rodgers High School

● Performing a nationwide LED retrofit for street lights

● Implementing a thorough process designed to transition the Bahamas off fossil fuels and document best practices.

The Carbon War Room will provide the Bahamas government with a range of technical, project management, communication and business advisory support services.

Ten Island Challenge

Other Caribbean islands that have joined the Ten Island Challenge include Aruba, Grenada, San Andres and Providencia in Colombia, St Lucia, and most recently Turks & Caicos. [Engerati-Turks & Caicos Joins Ten Island Challenge] A renewables microgrid being developed on Branson’s own Necker Island by NRG Energy is expected to serve as a demonstration for the Challenge.

These islands, like most island nations round the world, are highly dependent on fossil fuels, resulting in significant exposure to their price volatility and supply disruptions, and ultimately amongst the world’s highest energy costs.

Through the Ten Island Challenge, the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute – which have recently merged in an alliance – seek to identify technical and commercial solutions that can facilitate low-carbon use in the Caribbean.

Caribbean ‘Treasure Island’

In its latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index, Ernst & Young in its analysis of islands state that there are likely to be few places that represent a more suitable market for homegrown renewable energy than the world’s island nations. However, development has been held back as typically smaller renewables projects can result in relatively high upfront development cost on per kWh basis. There is also some skepticism about the scale of the opportunity given the low energy demand of some islands in absolute terms compared with many mainland markets.

In the Caribbean the picture is further distorted by Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative, which creates an alliance with 17 states to purchase oil on preferential payment terms, with exports to these markets accounting for more than 40% of their total energy consumption in 2013. While the terms of the initiative are expected to become less attractive as Venezuela battles its own fiscal deficit, anticipated revisions have been delayed, allowing members to draw on subsidized financing for another year.

But this picture is changing with initiatives such as the Ten Island Challenge. The Clinton Foundation’s Climate Change Initiative has also voiced its support for Caribbean renewables.

Some islands themselves are also spurring on renewables deployment, and on a larger scale than might be anticipated:

● Aruba, whose top industry is tourism, now gets 20% of its energy from renewable sources having invested US$300 million in expanding its wind power capacity including a 30MW project, and cut diesel consumption by half in only two years.

● Cuba, the Caribbean’s largest island nation, is reportedly pushing through policy changes that could open the door for new renewable energy investors, with pending legislation expected to allow wholly owned foreign companies to exist in Cuba for the first time.

● In June, the Dominican Republic approved US$150 million of new renewables projects, including a 30MW wind farm and 25MW biomass plant, while Germany’s Wirsol is also developing a 62MW solar park. The country has received US$800 million in investment since 2007, having set legislation targeting 25% renewables generation by 2025.

● In the same month, Jamaica’s Energy Minister claimed that the country will be the leading nation for gross production of renewable energy thanks to an anticipated additional capacity of 78MW by the middle of 2015.

Ernst & Young quote Warren Smith, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, as stating the region is looking to attract as much as US$30 billion of investment to expand and upgrade the power sector, with the potential to replace 4,750MW of fossil fuel generation with renewables by 2019.

Further reading

Ernst & Young: Renewable energy country attractiveness index