A proposed national energy policy, released by government this week, seeks to have 70 percent of all Cayman’s energy generated by renewable sources in 20 years, and moving toward 100 percent sooner if possible.
Released for public commentary on Feb. 7, the “National Energy Policy 2017-2037,” details years-long deliberations, a series of strategies in seven “sectors” – from transport, Cayman’s second-largest energy consumer, to land use and buildings, water, climate change and the environment – and recommendations to achieve necessary changes.
“Our ultimate goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of the Cayman Islands on the world at large,” writes Premier Alden McLaughlin in the document’s foreword.
“[W]e have drawn on the expertise of a cross section of stakeholders, both here at home and from the global community who have advised us … on social policy considerations to the efficacy of emerging technologies,” the premier states.
A national energy policy is necessary, the report says, to reduce reliance on high-cost, imported fossil fuels, which pose “a risk to the competitiveness of the Caymanian economy and the standard of living of residents and therefore an inhibitor to socioeconomic development.”
The report details “high-level targets: 70% of total electricity generation to come from renewable sources by 2037; and total peak [greenhouse gas] emissions for the Cayman Islands by 2020, while not exceeding 2014 per capita emissions levels (approx. 12.3 tCO2e) and achieving further reductions in per capita GHG emissions from peak 2014 levels of 10% by 2025 (approx. 11.1 tCO2e), a further 20% by 2037 (approx. 8.9 tCO2e).”
“tCO2e” is “tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent,” a measure comparing greenhouse gas emissions relative to a single unit of CO2. The formula multiplies the emissions by its 100-year global-warming potential.
Global warming potential is a measure of how much heat is trapped in the atmosphere by various greenhouse gasses, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“More than 99 percent of energy demand in the Cayman Islands is met by oil products,” the report says, “largely diesel and gasoline.” Caribbean Utilities Company uses approximately 31 million gallons of sulfurous diesel fuel each year to generate electricity, which is “split between commercial and residential use.”
“The clear imperative of any energy policy for the Cayman Islands [is] to concentrate on the reduction of the contribution of diesel fuel to utility-scale generation.
“Given the overarching target of reducing GHG, it is critical to accelerate the us[e] of renewable energy from the current 0.9% to 70% of total electricity generation by 2037,” the document says.
Strategies include a broad range of public-education programs through schools, legislation and government-funded renewable-energy projects, including technological innovation.
Under the proposed policy, government would require local utilities to purchase renewable energy from third-party providers; regulators would help develop financing mechanisms to create “green financial incentives” for household-owned generating systems; new “tariff structures” would encourage energy efficiency; wind energy would be boosted by reviewing airport exclusion zones and restrictions created by East End’s Doppler Radar system; and regular reviews would weigh use of both liquefied and compressed natural gas.
The document calls for increased use of electric and hybrid vehicles, and commits government to reducing its own 1,100-vehicle fleet by between 7 and 10 percent in the first five years of the policy.
It also commits to better and expanded public transport, using electric and hybrid vehicles, while developing a comprehensive network of bicycle lanes.
Building codes will set standards for ready incorporation – and retrofitting – of renewable energy systems into buildings, and demanding minimal standards for lighting, insulation, and cooling and ventilation equipment.
Miguel Jacques, senior policy analyst for utilities and technology at the Ministry of Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure, said a broad range of groups had contributed to the National Energy Policy, including the local Cayman Renewable Energy Association and regional and international energy experts ECLAC, based in Trinidad and Tobago, and consultants from Washington D.C.
He said the policy document “is intended to be dynamic, which correlates to the nature of the RE industry. This means government will frequently monitor the policy, consult on the significance [and] relevance, and revise accordingly.”
Cayman Renewable Energy Association chairman and founder of Greentech solar installers James Whittaker said the National Energy Policy document, if not ideal, represented a tremendous boost for Cayman, multiplying solar and renewable use by 10-fold every year – “and we will review this every five years with a target of 100 percent renewables.”
“It’s a quantum leap forward from where we are now,” Mr. Whittaker said, “and having 70 percent by 2037 will, actually, put us on a par with others [globally].”