The Cayman Islands government is in discussions with Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room initiative to make Cayman part of the “Ten Island Challenge,” which seeks to help small islands move away from fossil fuels.
The British entrepreneur’s experts provide advice in drafting requests for proposals and grid management to incorporate new technology. Sister Islands MLA Moses Kirkconnell said it is a realistic target to take Little Cayman completely off the grid.
“The vision for Little Cayman and the Brac is that they would be branded as part of the Ten Island Challenge,” he said.
The challenge is a partnership between Branson’s group and the Rocky Mountain Institute in the U.S., which provides technical support and in some instances secures grant funding for Caribbean islands aiming to reduce their reliance on oil.
Mr. Kirkconnell said he first discussed the possibility of Cayman being involved when he met with Mr. Branson during his visit to Camana Bay in 2015.
Kurt Tibbetts, the minister for planning and infrastructure, is also involved.
If a partnership is agreed, the experts would provide support to the Electricity Regulatory Authority in managing and speeding the transition toward renewables on all three islands.
Mr. Kirkconnell said there is an opportunity for the Sister Islands, particularly eco-friendly Little Cayman, to lead the way.
“Part of the conversation is project modeling to transition Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to high-penetration renewable microgrids,” he said.
“We want to be involved in this and see how we can start moving in the direction of zero [percent energy from fossil fuels]. It would have to be based on good business decisions.”
Government is reviewing the scope and likely cost over a three-year-period of a proposed partnership with the group.
Charles Farrington of the Electricity Regulatory Authority said, “If they are willing to work with us, we would be happy to utilize whatever services they can provide. It would be great to have an independent party like that to look at the various things we are doing, and what we need to do.”
He said moving toward 100 percent renewable energy is not something that would happen overnight, even on the smaller Sister Islands.
He said battery costs would have to come down to make it economically viable.