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Is the Caribbean about to realise its renewable energy potential?

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caribbean island by James Willamor via flickr

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.

 

Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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