Island nations are at particular risk from climate change, for fairly obvious reasons: Rising sea levels could obliterate whole nations over the next century. Many of them, particularly in the Caribbean, rely on diesel-powered gird electricity that must be imported at great expense- some countries pay up to $.55 per kWh (compared to NYC, where electricity rates generally stay at least a few cents under $.25/kWh).
The Carbon War Room (CWR) and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) thought that it might be possible to do better by harnessing investors, environmental consultants and island governments to broker commitments and create plans to switch from diesel to renewable power.
Earlier this month at Necker Island, CWR and RMI held a summit to announce that six islands have agreed to sign on. The Ten Island Challenge proposes signing up ten island nations before the end of 2014; currently, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Colombia, Dominica, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Turks & Caicos have made commitments (Aruba has already committed as well). Future endeavors under consideration include hospitals, schools, sustainable hotels and sustainable agriculture, as well as grid and distributed electricity projects. Sir Richard Branson, who co-founded the Carbon War Room, has offered Necker, his private island, as a test site for renewable technology.
The potential for renewables in the Caribbean is impressive. With average wind speeds of 16 knots and great offshore wind assets, plenty of sun (obviously) and even geothermal options for some islands, there is a wealth of clean, domestic energy that has barely begun to be exploited.
Solar One spoke with Bill Browning, co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green (and one of our Board members), who was at the Necker Island Summit, and here are some of the projects under consideration that he told us about:
- Desalination plant and sustainable agriculture hub in the BVI
- Sustainable fisheries tied to renewable energy systems
- Solar photovoltaic power plants and wind farms
- Distributed and grid-tied electricity generation
In addition, some governments are particularly interested in sustainable construction and energy security. About $300 million dollars has been committed so far to begin this very ambitious switch. Since many year-round Caribbean residents do not have access to reliable electricity, switching to renewables and investing boldly in sustainability could be an enormous game-changer for the entire region. As goes the Caribbean, so goes the planet? Stay tuned…