Like islands around the world, those in the Caribbean face a variety of challenges. Highly dependent of fossil fuels their energy costs are high, and with largely coastal populations they are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and to natural disasters. [Engerati-Smart Metering Helps Caribbean’s Energy Security]
Now British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, the owner of two of these islands, Necker Island and neighbouring Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands group, is behind an initiative to reduce this dependence on fossil fuels by accelerating the transition to renewable energies.
Ten Island Challenge
The Carbon War Room, which was founded by Branson to accelerate the adoption of solutions that reduce carbon emissions and advance the low carbon economy, and the Rocky Mountain Institute launched the Ten Island Challenge at the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012. The aim – to transition the participating islands to 100% renewable energy production through the provision of technical expertise to develop a roadmap and to assist with securing project financing.
The first islands to join the challenge were Aruba, the first island with which the Carbon War Room started working, and Necker Island. Necker will serve as the “demo island” for the Challenge and earlier this year NRG Energy was awarded a contract to install a renewables-driven microgrid powered at least 75% by an integrated array of solar, wind and energy storage technologies.
Other islands to join the Challenge are:
● Saint Lucia. Specific project commitments include a 10MW competitive solar project.
● Colombia, through the islands of San Andrés and Providencia. To kickstart the initiative the initial focus will be on energy plans for two hospitals on these islands.
● Turks & Caicos.
“With the addition of Turks & Caicos, the Ten Island Challenge continues to expand its efforts to transform Caribbean economies and help the region achieve independence from fossil fuels,” commented Branson in a statement.
Other islands that have expressed interest in the Challenge are Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and US Virgin Islands.
Smart grids in the Caribbean
The potential for renewable energies in the Caribbean is significant. [Engerati-Solar Energy can improve Jamaica's Economic Future with Conservation]
In addition, several of the Caribbean islands are already installing the technologies to take them towards a smarter energy future. Among these, Caribbean Utilities Company, Ltd (CUC) is implementing a smart grid solution with smart metering on Grand Cayman island. A pilot smart meter deployment is also under way on St. Kitts. [Engerati-Smart Grid Coming To St. Kitts]