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Caribbean Islands Gear Up for Renewables Growth

16 Jan 16:00 by Steve Walia

Bottom Bay, Barbados, Caribbean (barbados, beach, tropical)

The Caribbean has long been recognised as a huge untapped pool of green energy, with vast potential capacity for wind, solar, marine and geothermal power. And yet most of the islands still use expensive and damaging oil and diesel imports to produce over 90pc of their power needs.

The global community has long complained that the Caribbean has made insufficient progress to cut its usage of fossil fuels, but the problems around financing have remained a persistent barrier. The islands have relatively small economies, despite their thriving tourism industries, and have struggled to meet the high upfront costs of new renewable plant builds. For example, an energy from waste plant can easily cost over $400 million, and large wind turbines can easily cost $2 million per MW of capacity.

The World Bank and OPIC can partner for these projects, but only at the end of a prolonged and difficult process.

However, things look set to change. The Dominican government has confirmed it will be releasing $15 million to develop a new geothermal plant, and Barbados is looking to expand the use of solar water heaters and bring in greater usage of solar PV across the island. Their proposed scheme would allow island inhabitants to sell back their power into the island grid at 1.6 times the typical charge. Already the incentive has seen over 300 solar PV systems installed on rooftops across Barbados, and the island has committed to producing 29pc of its total energy needs from renewable energies by 2029.

The hope is that early success will attract further private investment into the island projects and allow the Caribbean to take its place amongst the big renewable energy developers whilst finally leaving behind damaging fossil fuels for good.