Saving the Turquoise – Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean.


Without sustainable practices, Caribbean islands like Turks and Caicos may find themselves struggling to stay afloat

The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has embarked on a seemingly long and winding road to the ultimate goal of sustainable development. The Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) recently launched a campaign to promote public awareness of new climate change and draft energy policies and in conjunction withCastalia Strategic Advisors (a consulting group hired by the British Overseas Territories Conservation Forum).

The onset of tourism in the last decade brought rapid development to the Turks and Caicos Islands, known for pristine cerulean waters and white-sand beaches.  To establish and distinguish itself as a legitimate contender in the tourism industry among the other Caribbean islands, the TCI quickly modernized its infrastructure.  Tourism is currently the main driver of the TCI economy, with ever-developing hotel resorts on  major tourist destination islands like Providenciales.

The geography of the Turks and Caicos Islands proves to be both a blessing and a curse to its tourism industry.  True to its motto, “Beautiful by Nature,” the limestone islands are an idyllic tourist destination surrounded by turquoise waters and vibrant coral reefs and an extensive system of caves created by the ebb and flow of the ocean tides.  However, the TCI faces a glaring problem in the expansion of tourism concerning the nations environmental and economic sustainability.  The TCI relies on diesel fuel for 100% of its energy demands.  Although solar and wind resources are ubiquitous, historical reliance on cheap fossil fuels and archaic energy policies have all but doomed the future of home-grown, clean energy in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  In the wake of recent hikes in the price oil, the costs of electricity in the islands have skyrocketed.  Another contributing factor to high diesel prices in the TCI is the lack of deep-sea ports.  Most companies are unwilling to commit to frequent shipments of smaller quantities of diesel.  Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this dependence on foreign fuel is the negative impact fossil fuels have on the environment.  Continued use of fossil fuels contributes (via global warming) to sea level rise, stronger tropical storms, and ocean acidification, all serious environmental problems which threaten the very natural resource foundation supporting the heart of tourism in the islands.  Fishing, the island’s second largest industry, is also in jeopardy of collapse due to environmental degradations brought on by climate change.

The recent energy policy recommendations presented by the DECR and Castalia’s consultations to the public stressed the need for electricity conservation and efficiency and of solar and wind penetration in the TCI energy market.  The tropical islands have high solar energy reserves with at least 4.5 daily hours of peak sun year round and sufficient wind resources to utilize wind power.  With such high rankings in renewable energy capability, the lack of clean energy technology in the Turks and Caicos is surprising.  The biggest obstacle to clean energy in the Turks and Caicos Islands is the hesitation of large power companies and central government to invest in the technology.  The two large power companies in the TCI, Turks and Caicos Utilities (TCU) and Provo Power Company (PPC), hold a duopoly over the local energy sector.  Distributed solar and wind power are discouraged because the local utilities do not allow grid-tied installations, raising the price of installed renewable equipment substantially.  The government provides little incentive to its people to invest individually in clean technology and has even rejected TCU’s efforts to establish power clean energy in the form of a proposed wind farm.  This hesitancy of the TCI government to push for renewable energy has greatly stalled the implementation of clean technology.

The public information sessions on energy policy and climate change are a step forward in working towards cutting the red tape regarding clean technology and sustainable development.  However, the future of efficient and home-grown clean electricity remains uncertain in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  The DECR is making a push to secure funding and support for clean technology on the islands by negotiating with the major power companies and reaching out to the general public.  The goal is to foster recognition of the importance of reducing fossil fuel dependency and preserving natural resources to work towards local and global environmental sustainability.

The importance of innovation in Caribbean sustainability will be highlighted on May 3-4 in Kingston, Jamaica at the Sustainable Energy in the Caribbean Conference.  Major players and investors in Caribbean infrastructure development and energy policy will discuss solutions to help the region improve sustainable energy practices.  If you will be in Kingston for the conference please let one of our Capital Markets Associates know so we can set up a personal meeting with you.

Our vision is simple; finance the new leading industry of the US economy using the power of commerce to solve social and environmental problems as a matter of national security and economic imperative.  We look forward to seeing how we can help your efforts.

Posted by John Adamo on Saturday, April 30, 2011.