Establishing a national energy policy has been a long awaited goal for Cayman.
When fuel prices skyrocketed last year, the islands’ dependence on diesel and the electricity it fuels came under the spotlight and had many calling for more to be done to promote sustainable energy.
Successive governments have touched on the issue of implementing a national policy that would determine how power is generated and used in Cayman, but no timetable has ever been laid down for when such a policy could come into existence.
A recent meeting in Cayman of representatives from small nations and United Kingdom overseas territories highlighted the threat of global warming and addressed some of the steps being taken regionally and by individual countries to combat it and prepare for its fallout.
Global warming is often cited as one of the main long-term reasons why a national energy policy is necessary.
The think tank Cayman Institute made a formal presentation to Cabinet on the need for a national energy policy in 2007, arguing that if such an energy policy is ignored or delayed, the future of the Cayman Islands would be compromised. It also wrote a draft policy which it submitted to the Cabinet.
The Cayman Institute argues that a national policy is vital to tackle both short-term and long-term issues.
Its submission to the government stated: “The short-term challenge is to deliver secure, clean energy at affordable prices that can support our economic development, while being environmentally responsible.
“The long-term challenge is to respond to the potentially devastating effects of climate change by tackling carbon emissions that we contribute to through our energy production and consumption.”
The institute’s 2007 paper, in a prescient comment in light of last summer’s increase in oil prices that saw electricity bills spike to record highs, stated: “With the advent of peak oil pricing, the availability of sufficient supply to meet Cayman’s needs is more likely, however, if an oil shock were to occur, the price would be much higher. High, economically destabilising, rates of inflation will result.
“Given Cayman’s high degree of dependence on oil for essential utilities – water and electricity – there will be negative economic impacts from much higher energy and utility prices if these potentialities are not addressed post haste.”
The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce last year planned to hold an energy forum but it was postponed due a hurricane Paloma.
The forum is now planned for later this year “in partnership with government, the private sector and the electrical regulator, according to the Chamber’s chief executive officer Wil Pineau.
The objective of the forum is to bring together different groups to discuss the development of a national energy policy.
The Department of Environment is in favour of a national policy, as it would enable a discussion on how energy is made and consumed here, as could set goals on how to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
However, while no national policy is in place, some steps have been taken to make green energy more attractive and individuals are stepping forward to make their homes and businesses more energy sustainable.
In January this year, the government waived import duty for renewable and alternative energy equipment, such as solar panels, for homes, and waivers for commercial use is considered on a case-by-case basis by the Electricity Regulatory Authority.
For a small territory like Cayman, alternative energy seems the logical way forward for many.
In West Bay last month, the first entirely solar- and wind-powered condo complex and dive shop opened at Lighthouse Point.
At the opening, Nancy Easterbrook, co-owner of the development with her husband Jay, related a story told to her by an alternative energy contractor.
“He said ‘if I can guarantee you that underneath your house, there is an unlimited supply of oil, would you go out and buy a pump and take it out of the ground? Well, I can’t guarantee that, but I can guarantee you have an endless supply of energy over your head,” Easterbrook said.
She has utilised this energy by installing solar panels and a wind turbine on the West Bay property and created the first condo development and dive shop to run entirely on alternative energy.
Despite the slowness of pace, Cayman is closer to having sources of alternative energy than ever before.
CUC is currently seeking partners to generate alternative energy and has implemented a Consumer Owned Renewable Energy programme, known as CORE, which enables customers to produce their own electricity and sell the excess back to the main grid.
Donald Hardy, president of PanAero Corporation which carried out a 2003 study on the viability of wind energy in Cayman, in an earlier interview, said he believed that Cayman will never have a cohesive and effective means of supplying non-fossil fuel energy until a national policy is implemented.
Comparing Cayman to the United States, Mr. Hardy argues: “More than half of the 50 states in the USA have renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws. An RPS requires electric utilities to achieve an increasing percentage of their total electricity from renewable resources. Utilities can either invest in renewable generating equipment or buy renewable electricity from non-utility sources.”