The following Op-Ed was submitted to BermudaReal.com on Wednesday, June 8, 2022, by David Gumbs, RMI Islands Co-Director, and Dr James Fletcher, Managing Director of Soloricon…
Across the Caribbean, except for oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago, electricity is already among the most expensive in the world — and it is only getting more expensive. In Saint Lucia, electricity prices have almost doubled in the past 30 years, and in the other countries in the region that do not produce oil, we have seen increases over 40%.
In the Caribbean, the price of electricity rises and falls with the cost of oil. This is because almost all of our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, which must be imported into our countries. Just as dependence on imported food creates food insecurity, dependence on imported oil creates energy insecurity.
Today, in addition to the devastating toll that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken on human life, ithas also shaken up the global energy market. This has resulted in huge increases in energy prices in our Caribbean countries, thousands of miles away from the conflict.
However, this does not have tobe the case. There is a solution. We can be self-sufficient, energy secure, and own our local energy resources.
Millions of tourists come to our shores because of our year-long sunshine, our beautiful beaches, and our picture-perfect natural environment. We can use that sunshine not only to generate tourism dollars, but also to generate our own electricity.
The electricity we produce in our countries from renewable sources like solar will not only be cheaperbut will also increase our energy security by removing our dependence on imported oil. Additionally, it will help us to reduce our carbon footprint and continue to lead by example in the global fight against climate change. Ultimately, harnessing solar power unlocks the ability for everyone to access affordable, clean, resilient energy, and eventually, cheaper, and cleaner transportation.
This is not a hypothetical idea —it is the reality of today’s Caribbean market. There are already several solar projects being built all over the Caribbean that are generating cheaper, cleaner energy. For example, a recent solar project in Montserrat that brought the island to 50% renewable energy isprojected to cut electricity generation costs by more than $17.46 million over the project’s lifetime. We just need more political and utility commitment to these projects. To reduce energy costs, we needgovernment, citizens, and electric utility companies to come together and take decisive action totransition to cleaner renewable energy.
Not only is solar better for the environment and often cheaper, on average cutting generation costs by more than 30%, but it also helps during and after hurricanes. When a large power grid goes down it cantake weeks or even months to get power restored to everyone. Right now, in the Bahamas and in Puerto Rico, solar microgrids with battery storage are being built to withstand or come back online quickly after intense hurricanes. Distributing generation with renewable energy microgrids increases grid resiliencewhile lowering generation costs.
About the Contributors
David Gumbs is the former Chief Executive Officer of the Anguilla Electricity Company, Ltd (ANGLEC). David is a graduate of the University of Hartford with a Master of Science in Accounting and Connecticut College with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Africana Studies. David is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with more than twenty years’ operational and managerial experience. Some of David’s former roles include Chief Financial Officer at ANGLEC and Senior Director,Treasury and Financial Analysis at Sodexo, Inc. Under David’s leadership, ANGLEC embraced renewable energy technologies and achieved one of the region’s highest penetration levels in 2016. He successfully negotiated several solar PV and waste-to-energy power purchase agreements for the integration of alternative energy sources into ANGLEC’s generation portfolio. David implemented an aggressive public relations and marketing strategy that strengthened the company’s brand and customer satisfaction scores and improved the company’s performance. He brought efficiencies and cost savings to the organization by incorporating industry-leading solutions such as advanced metering, grid automation, work order automation, and vehicle fleet management into ANGLEC’s operations. Recognizing the Company’s exposure to severe hurricanes, David launched the Company’s first aggressive undergrounding initiative in 2018. Most notably, David led the historic Hurricane Irma recovery efforts restoring the grid to 100 percent in 100 days. Hurricane Irma devastated the island—destroying over 60 percent of its infrastructure. Under David’s leadership and in collaboration with colleagues throughout the region and various partners, including CARILEC, the UK Government, and the Government of Anguilla, the island’s grid was restored in record time—earning him much recognition.
James Fletcher is a former Minister for Public Service, Information, Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy,
Science, and Technology in Saint Lucia. He served in that position from December 2011 to June 2016. During his tenure, James led Saint Lucia on an aggressive path toward the modernization of the energy sector with a strong push toward the use of renewable energy. He has been very active in international climate change negotiations. He played a leading role in the Caribbean’s “1.5 to Stay Alive” climate change campaign. During the COP21 negotiations on the Paris Agreement in 2015, he was a member of a small group of 14 ministers from various countries around the world who were selected to assist the COP President in achieving consensus on the more contentious elements of the agreement. Prior to his tenure as a Cabinet Minister, he served as the Director of Social and Sustainable Development at the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Cabinet Secretary in the Government of Saint Lucia, and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. James Fletcher currently manages his own company, SOLORICON, which provides consulting services in sustainable energy, climate change, water policy, public policy, and agriculture. In 2017, he wrote and published a book entitled Governing in a Small Caribbean Island State. He also authored the Regional Strategic Action Plan for Governance and Building Climate Resilience in the Water Sector in the Caribbean. He coproduces and hosts a weekly television program called PSI—People Solutions Ideas. Dr. Fletcher holds an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry fromthe University of Ottawa, Canada, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Crop Physiology from the University of Cambridge, England.