FEATURE: Anguilla moves towards cleaner energy
“If people in the USA had to pay 20 cents a kilowatt hour (kW/h) for their electricity they’d be rioting in the streets, says Beth Barry. “Yet here on Anguilla we pay 43 cents per kW/h, and a price of 40–45 cents per kW/h is common throughout the Caribbean islands – it’s outrageous.”
As Coordinator of the Anguilla Renewable Energy Office, Beth is at the forefront of efforts to help the island switch from relying on expensive imported diesel to power its homes and offices, to using solar energy. Not only will this have an impact on energy bills but will also help the island become more sustainable.
CDKN is helping Anguilla achieve its goal of obtaining 15% of its energy from solar power by funding the Anguilla Renewable Energy Integration Project. This is being carried out by Castalia Strategic Advisors, under the guidance of AERO, on behalf of the Government of Anguilla. The aim is for Castalia to equip the government with all the information it needs to change the island’s legislation, so it can integrate renewables into its grid.
“We’ve had very positive results from the stakeholder meetings we’ve held with members of the government, utilities and major consumers, such as the tourist industry,” says Beth. “And the government have asked Castalia to move forward as fast as they can so they can make a decision more quickly. So I have high hopes that we’ll get there.”
At the moment, Anguilla provides electricity across the island through a central plant fuelled by imported diesel. This is bought on the global market, and the cost is very volatile. On a monthly basis, the utility company looks at how much fuel has been burned, at what cost, and that fee gets spilt up among the consumer base. Although consumers pay a base rate covering overheads, the bulk of their bill covers the cost of fuel.
Anguilla’s present electricity act only allows islanders to use electricity from their own diesel generators if the grid goes down; however individuals are allowed to use energy generated by wind or solar power at any time. The plan for the future is to install a utility-scale solar farm, but also to encourage individuals to invest in solar panels so they can generate their own energy.
“The best savings you could get as a customer would be to make an upfront investment, if you had a good site for solar, and provide as much energy as you possibly could. In that case, you’d be saving the entire retail rate for every kW/h you produced yourself and if producing more, you would get money back, most probably through a feed-in tariff.”
Other Small Island Developing States are also going through the process of making the transition to integrate renewable energy into their grids. In May, 18 states that attended the High-Level Conference of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Achieving Sustainable Energy for All signed the Barbados Declaration, making voluntary commitments to promote transformational activities in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy access and low-carbon development.
Although some islands, such as Barbados, have made good progress in this regard, many are still at the early stages of planning how to integrate renewable energy into their grids. Of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Gibraltar plus the Turks and Caicos islands, Anguilla is the furthest ahead with its transformation plans.
“For a small island we’re very far ahead,” explains Beth. We’ve got an Energy Policy and a draft Climate Change policy and have been focussing efforts on the question of sustainable energy supply for several years now. As a result we have a lot of information we can share with other islands.”
One of the characteristics that has smoothed Anguilla’s path towards its goal has been the involvement of a volunteer group. The AREO is the active arm of the Anguilla National Energy Committee but is made up of interested volunteers, from government, the utility company, technology installers and consumers. Having no political allegiance, the AREO was able to work through the change of government in 2010, providing essential continuity to local progress on sustainable development
Although governments are ultimately the decision makers when it comes to changing legislation, they don’t always have the resources to be aware of everything that’s going on in all sectors or to develop relationships with multilateral organisations that provide funding to renewable energy initiatives. A volunteer group can help align diverse stakeholders in the right direction towards particular goals.
“You need a strong legislative framework to make the transition towards integrating renewables but some islands have found it difficult to move through that process. Our extra-governmental approach, where you take advantage of people in your country who are passionate about energy and work with them to develop partnerships, is a proven way of being able to move through the legislative change process.”
• Third Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum, St Kitts & Nevis, September 5–6
• Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum 2012, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct 15-17
Photo courtesy of Flickr/CreativeCommons/Madelana Pestana
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