Sun is in abundance in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and many are interested in finding cost effective ways of turning the plentiful natural resource into renewable energy for the country, including the local government, energy producers and island developers.
On Feb 6, the Turks and Caicos Islands government announced its expression of interest to join the "Ten Island Challenge," an initiative of the Carbon War Room, an organisation founded by top global business leader Sir Richard Branson.
The announcement was made at a conference arranged by Sir Richard Branson, attended by multiple regional heads of state, world leading technology suppliers, researchers and financial facilitators, where five other Caribbean countries also committed to specific projects in partnership with the Carbon War Room which emerged from the work undertaken during the summit.
The Turks and Caicos Islands’ (TCI) commitment was made by Governor Peter Beckingham and the Minister for Government Support Services, George Lightbourne. "I am under no illusions that converting some of TCI's current 100 per cent dependency on fossil fuel will be challenging,” said Governor Beckingham. “But we must work closely with the utility (provider) Fortis to see how we and they can build on their initial plans for solar and wind power."
FortisTCI provides 98 percent of the nation’s electricity, serving more than 12,000 customers. That power comes from diesel-fired generators with a capacity of 75 megawatts, and met a record peak demand of 34.7 megawatts in 2012. “There is no doubt that as technology improves and prices decline, wind and solar will play a role in our energy mix. But, we are not there yet,” said FortisTCI President and CEO Eddinton Powell last year. “Furthermore, we fundamentally believe that renewable energy should not cost our customers more, or result in reduced reliability.”
At the recent conference Minister Lightbourne said he is determined to see the introduction of alternative energy generation. “(I) believe this initiative will have a positive impact across the entire social spectrum and reduce operational overhead for the public and private sector alike, by reducing the burden of spiraling energy costs, and living our ‘Beautiful by Nature’ mission," he said.
The Carbon War Room aims to accelerate the adoption of business solutions that reduce carbon emissions at gigaton scale and advance the low-carbon economy. "Our goal is to provide a source of inspiration for entrepreneurs and capital sources that aren't aware of the opportunities in clean technology," Peter Boyd, COO Carbon War Room, states on the independent non-profits website.
The first specific project for the Turks and Caicos which the Carbon War Room will advise on is the Molasses Reef development on West Caicos. "West Caicos has the potential for solar, wind, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) and other Green technologies,” said Jonathan O'Dea, senior representative of Kew Capital. “We are pleased to be TCI's and the Carbon War Room's first project in carbon impact reduction, and see the proof of renewable energy as a commercially sound and financially viable business model."
The Molasses Reef development is a luxury hotel and condominium resort planned on the currently uninhabited island of West Caicos. Work at the 24 sq. kilometre West Caicos site is reportedly about to commence.
Other countries who made commitments to the Carbon War Room included Aruba, which aims to be fossil fuel free by 2020 and is already at 50% after only five years, with a resultant $80M annual reduction in energy cost, St Lucia, St Kitts, The British Virgin Islands and San Andres Province, Colombia.
Image source: TCI Governor’s Office
Photograph shows: (Rear LtR): Amory Lovins CEO and Chief Scientist Rocky Mountain Institute; His Excellency Peter Beckingham Governor of TCI; Séamus Day - Sand Dollar Investments, TCI; Jonathan O'Dea Kew Capital (West Caicos); Jose Figures, CEO Carbon War Room (former president of Costa Rica); (Front LtR) Richard Branson; Hon. George Lightbourne, Minister for Government Support Services, TCI.