Renewables to Become the Norm for the Caribbean

A wind farm in Curacao. Caribbean nations such as Jamaica are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and many are embracing renewable energy. (Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS)

By Desmond Brown

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday April 30,
2019
(IPS) – Jamaica and other Small Island
Developing States (SIDS) are embracing renewable energy as part of their plans
to become decarbonised in the coming decades.

The Prime
Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness, has committed the island nation to
transitioning to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“I believe
that we can do better. Jamaica has sunshine all year round and strong winds in
certain parts of the island,” Holness said.

Solar Head
of State (SHOS), a non-profit that helps world leaders become green leaders by
installing solar panels on government buildings, has been assisting Jamaica and
other Caribbean countries with their renewable energy transition.

James
Ellsmoor, the group’s Director and Co-Founder, said they partnered with the
Jamaica’s government to install and commission a state-of-the-art solar
photovoltaic (PV) array at Jamaica House—the Office of the Prime Minister.

“Following
similar installations by the President of the Maldives and Governor-General of
Saint Lucia, Jamaica’s prominent adoption of solar, sets an example for other
nations around the world that renewable energy can make a global impact,”
Ellsmoor told IPS.

“While island nations such as Jamaica are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, this project is a reminder that they are also leading in finding solutions.”

The installation of the state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic (PV) array at Jamaica House—the Office of the Prime Minister. (Courtesy: Solar Head of State)

Holness
heralded the solar installation on his office as emblematic of the clean energy
technologies that must be deployed by Caribbean nations to decarbonise
economies, reduce regional fossil fuel use, and combat climate change.

“I have
directed the government to increase our target from 30 per cent to 50 per cent,
and our energy company is totally in agreement. So, I believe that by 2030,
Jamaica will be producing more than 50 per cent of its electricity from
renewables.”

Peter
Ruddock, manager of renewable energy and energy efficiency at the state-owned
Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, hailed the prime minister’s decision as a
step in the right direction.

“We do have
to look at our indigenous sources—the wind, the sun—it shows good leadership
for the Office of the Prime Minister to be outfitted with solar panels, which
will reduce their consumption,” Ruddock said.

Due to a
historic lack of diversification of energy resources, Jamaica has been heavily
reliant on imported fossils fuels, resulting in CO2 emissions and high
electricity prices that are up to four times higher than the United States.

Caribbean
nations are also vulnerable to hurricanes and extreme weather. Renewable energy
increases islands’ resilience—stabilising electricity supply in the wake of
natural disasters.

“We emit
negligible greenhouse gases but when the impact comes we are most impacted,”
Una May Gordon, Jamaica’s Director for Climate Change, told IPS.

“The prime
minister believes in what we are doing. He believes that renewable energy has a
role and a place in the Jamaica energy mix. A commitment has been made for
transformation.

“We are
building the resilience of the country. We have to transform a number of our
production processes and the only way to do that is with renewables,” Gordon
added.

SHOS
believes the region’s youth can play a vital role in the climate change fight
and has also conducted a solar challenge in partnership with Jamaica-based
youth groups, which invited young people from across the island to create
innovative communications projects to tell their communities about the benefits
of renewable energy.

On the heels
of a successful programme in Jamaica, SHOS is collaborating with the Caribbean
Youth Environment Network (CYEN) to launch the Guyana Solar Challenge—a
national competition in Guyana to engage and educate youth nationwide about the
benefits of renewable energy.

“With our
partners at CYEN we will run a Solar Challenge in every Caribbean country to
educate young people about the benefits of renewable energy for their communities,”
Ellsmoor told IPS.

“The
economic and environmental conditions for the Caribbean are very specific to
the region and often information coming from outside the region does not
represent that. Launching this challenge in Guyana is particularly important as
the country starts its journey into petroleum, and we want to show that the
best opportunity is to invest these new funds into the sustainable development
of the economy, and renewable energy is central to that,” he said.

The Guyana
Solar Challenge is open to young people between 12 and 26 years of age.
Competitors are asked to harness their creative energies (in any form such as a
song/video, art installation, performance piece, viral meme, sculpture) towards
raising awareness about renewable energy, specifically its potential to deliver
long-term economic benefits, reduce harmful environmental impacts, and increase
energy security and independence for Guyana. Winning projects will demonstrate
creativity and an ability to educate the public about the specific benefits of
solar energy for Guyana.

Sandra
Britton, Renewable Energy Liaison at Guyana’s Department of Environment said
she’s happy that young people are now taking the initiative to share the
concept of renewable energy and to promote it as Guyana transitions to a green
economy.

“We have developed the Green State Development Strategy, which will be rolled out shortly, and within the strategy it is envisioned that Guyana will try to move towards 100 per cent renewable energy by 2040,” Britton said.

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