The Road to Clean-Energy Islands

Last year more than 25 million tourists visited the Caribbean’s islands, drawn in part to the region’s sandy beaches and breathtaking sunsets. Though many consider it a tropical paradise, the Caribbean’s 40 million residents know that such positives also come at great cost: dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuel for energy generation. It affects everything from the prices paid for electricity to transportation to food.

That’s why the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute are teaming up on a project called Creating Climate Wealth—The Ten Island Renewable Challenge. We’re setting out to show the world what’s possible and set an example for moving toward a renewable energy future. More than a dozen Caribbean islands have boldly signed on to creative a renewable, reliable, secure, and affordable energy supply for their citizens.

Challenge participants include Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Puerto Rico, San Andres (Colombia), St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Turks & Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although islands such as these face high energy costs, they’re also rich in abundant, local renewable energy sources. But the technologies and other solutions to use that clean energy haven’t been widely implemented. We’re working to bridge that gap, identifying barriers and detailing solutions that can attract private sector investment and enable aggregated demand for large-scale renewable energy systems. We’ll start by focusing on projects in five categories: schools, hospitals, tourism resorts, transportation, and utility-scale renewables.

That process began this week on Necker and Moskito islands, as announced yesterday by Sir Richard Branson. And Carbon War Room and RMI’s commitment to helping develop and execute actionable work plans ensures not only that projects will be completed, but that they can be replicated and scaled across many islands.

By bringing our decades of experience helping businesses and communities cost-effectively shift to efficiency and renewables, RMI is helping unlock the challenge islands face in moving beyond clean energy roadmaps to tangible, on-the-ground results. Magazines like Conde Nast Traveler and Islands are known for their “best of” lists. Now, we’re forging the path to a new “best of” list—best islands to live on, measured not just by their beaches and rum-spiked cocktails and scuba diving, but also by their clean-energy systems, which impact every aspect of island life.