While energy production in the Turks and Caicos Islands continues its trend toward greater efficiency and reliability, supply-chain overhead and a rebound in diesel prices combine to keep the unit cost of energy here higher than rates paid by mainland consumers.
So, Econ 101: The higher the cost of energy, the greater the private incentive to invest in energy-saving technologies. And with the current government backing a renewable-energy agenda, things are looking up for green energy in the islands.
The best-selling products at Providenciales- based Green Revolution are solarpowered devices that pay for themselves in electrical savings. “A solar-powered pool pump typically pays back the buyer’s investment in 18 to 30 months, then saves owners an average of $3,000 to $4,000 annually,” says Green Revolution Managing Director Paul Chaplin. Solar hot water heaters are also popular, as are standard compact fluorescent bulbs and the new hyper-efficient LED lights.
The current administration strongly supports the use of green technologies, and in addition to encouraging individuals and businesses to utilise them where possible, it is also working on reforms to the regulatory framework.
While the government doesn’t directly subsidize private green-energy investments, it does encourage them through lower duties on environmentally friendly products. Appliances that qualify for an Energy Star rating are imported at a 10 percent duty, compared to the standard duty of 30 percent. Solar energy devices carry no duty at all.
One of the next likely areas of progress could be a local version of the utility buyback rule used in other nations. The Turks and Caicos Islands puts no restrictions on private electrical production via renewable resources, but currently offers no mechanism for private producers to sell their surplus to Fortis, which operates the nation’s electrical grids. TCIG and the Canadian- based energy company have entered into talks recently aimed at drafting the necessary legislative language. The buy-back approach has generally encouraged private investment in photovoltaic systems, while reducing demand on power plants and lowering electricity costs.
“The tropical climate within the Caribbean is perfect for people to adopt both wind and solar technologies,” said Chaplin, “making this region one of the most viable environments for renewable energy and energy-efficient products to succeed.”