The Caribbean is one of the world’s largest untapped sources of renewable energy, with huge solar, wind, geothermal and marine energy potential. Despite this, most Caribbean nations still use imported diesel or oil to generate more than 90% of their energy.
International bodies have long complained that Caribbean countries aren’t doing enough to reduce their fossil fuel consumption. So what has been the barrier to using renewables? Often, the answer relates to cost.
Why has the Caribbean been slow to realise its potential?
The Caribbean’s small economies mean that in most cases countries have difficulty financing renewable energy projects that require high upfront capital. For example, a typical waste-to-energy project could cost upwards of $400 million. The costs for a utility scale wind turbine range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million per MW of capacity.
Although public investment agencies like OPIC or the World Bank may seem to be a viable finance partner for some of these types of projects, their approval processes tend to be long and arduous.
At the same time, fossil fuels continue to prove favourable across the Caribbean Community. Since 2005, the Petrocaribe oil supply agreement signed between Venezuela and 17 Caribbean members has provided for subsidised oil imports across the region.
But now, many are questioning the ongoing viability of Venezuela’s costly oil giveaways. A breakdown of the Petrocaribe agreement could dry up the flow of cheap oil and leave Caribbean countries exposed to rising oil prices in the future.
Is all that about to change?
Recognising the potential for geothermal energy on the island, the government of Dominica recently set aside $15 million for the development of a long-awaited geothermal project. According to projections, as much as 1000 MW could be harnessed by this method in the future.
Officials announced last month that the country is going it alone with its geothermal project, and plans—once the geothermal plant is operational—to offer shares to the Dominican public. The government plans to dispose of as much as forty to fifty percent of its ownership in the geothermal plant.
It’s not such a risk as it seems: Dominica boasts one of the most popular citizenship by investment programmes, granting high net worth individuals a second island passport in exchange for a minimum contribution of $100,000 to a government fund. The fund finances various projects in Dominica for the benefit of its many industries, including tourism, agriculture and alternative energy.
Are others likely to follow suit?
“Successful geothermal development can positively impact energy security within the Eastern Caribbean Community, indeed within the wider Caribbean Community,” said St Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris. “This is a watershed for a transformed energy future that delivers affordable, reliable, sustainable and clean energy to the citizens of the Caribbean region.”
The twin islands have had success with geothermal exploration, and the government is looking toward the construction of a geothermal power plant in Nevis as the next step in a decade-long project to pursue renewable energy. Meanwhile, the expansion of Jamaica’s wind farm is under way. The country plans to increase renewable energy use further, with a goal to reach 20% by 2030 as part of its Vision 2030 policy.
Barbados, too, is keen to expand the success of solar water heaters to solar photovoltaic generation with the introduction of their Renewable Energy Rider. This allows people installing solar photovoltaics to sell their power back to the grid at 1.6 times the usual charge. As a result of this incentive, there are now more than 300 house-top photovoltaic systems on the island. Barbados has set itself an ambitious goal of 29% of energy to be produced from renewable sources by 2029.
Where is all this coming from?
International agencies are making serious headway in funding renewable energy projects in the Caribbean. In 2015 the Inter-American Development Bank announced $71.5 million in joint-funding for sustainable energy facilities in the Eastern Caribbean, while other money comes from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD).
But it’s not only international sponsorship driving such projects: there’s further thanks owed to private enterprise. Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room and Ten Island Challenge program is working with governments in selected Caribbean states to offer policy support to help propel clean energy alternatives. A number of smaller scale projects are underway that give rise to this optimism, and some larger projects are in development that may pave the way for a new business model for the region that will see widespread utility level applications.
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!