Cayman Renewable Energy Association launches

The new dozen-member Cayman Renewable Energy Association will formally establish itself tonight – Thursday – at a reception at Government House, addressed by Premier Alden McLaughlin.

The new group, initially formed in March, chaired by GreenTech Group Founder and CEO James Whittaker, hopes to guide public policymaking and education about renewable energy, while boosting local industry.

“The renewable industry in Cayman has now reached a point where we felt there needed to be an industry organization with resources and standards to ensure the health and growth of the industry, to protect consumers, to provide opportunities for jobs and education and to be a resource for change in working with stakeholders such as the Government, CUC and the ERA,” Mr. Whittaker said.

The group hopes to gain both political credibility and support from affiliation with Governor Helen Kilpatrick and Premier McLaughlin, who will deliver introductory remarks detailing CREA’s origins and its hopes to “build greater public awareness of the benefits of renewable energy.”

Founded only in March, CREA membership draws on renewable-energy providers, design and construction companies, and interested individuals, Mr. Whittaker said, encompassing a range of interests: “including solar, wind, solar thermal [hot water] and geothermal [ground and water source]. Association membership, however, is open to all sources of clean renewable energy including OTEC [Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion] and others.”

Caribbean Utilities Company is also part of the organization.

Company president and chief executive officer Richard Hew said CUC supports the association’s objectives, “which are to promote and provide awareness of renewable energy within the Cayman Islands and to ensure that viable renewable-energy technologies are utilized within the Cayman Islands to ensure sustainable energy.

“CUC looks forward to working with and supporting CREA to achieve these objectives,” he said.

Mr. Whittaker said CUC has an important role to play in development of renewable energy, particularly through its Consumer Owned Renewable Energy program, in which anyone privately generating electricity may connect to the national grid, selling excess power into the system and buying it back if renewable supplies are compromised.

Several renewable installations, such as West Bay’s Divetech and the private home of Jim Knapp, CREA vice chairman and owner of solar provider Endless Energy, operate independently of the renewable energy program, having abandoned CUC entirely, going “off grid.”

Whittaker points out the challenge of going “off grid,” but stops short of criticism: “If you don’t join CUC’s CORE program, you would have to have your own battery storage capacity to match your renewable energy production via sola or wind.

“We do advocate the best option for most consumers is the CORE program and we at CREA look forward to working with CUC and the ERA [Electricity Regulatory Authority, the government-mandated industry overseer] in improving the existing programs in place.”

He is uncompromising, however, about the need to move toward renewable sources of energy: “Cayman, like many Caribbean countries, is facing an unsustainable future, and there is a collective realization locally and regionally that renewable energy is a vital component to reverse that trend and put us on a sustainable and prosperous path economically, socially and environmentally.”

He says the biggest challenge CREA faces is public awareness and building official support: “Cayman needs to be moving more quickly towards larger amounts of clean energy in the appropriate manner that is currently economically and technologically feasible and then to continue pushing those limits as technology allows in the future.”

Ultimately, he hopes Cayman will move to 100 percent renewables “as the technology and economics will allow.

“We also need to educate our CREA membership and develop standards so that the industry is reputable and competent and that it builds future opportunities for Caymanians and greater economic stimulus by helping to create a green industry here in Cayman,” Mr. Whittaker said.

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