Government plans switch to electric vehicles

The solar farm in Bodden Town opened in June.

Government plans to convert at least 10 percent of its fleet to electric vehicles over the next five years, according to Infrastructure Minister Joey Hew.

Mr. Hew, speaking at the Caribbean Transitional Energy Conference in Grand Cayman last week, said the government was doing its part to meet commitments outlined in a 2017 National Energy Policy.

That document set the ambitious target that 70 percent of the electricity generated on the islands should be derived from renewable sources within the next 20 years. Currently Cayman gets less than five percent of its energy from renewables.

James Whittaker, president of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association and one of the speakers at last week’s conference, welcomed government’s commitment, but said it would need to “act aggressively” on renewables in the coming years to meet that target.

A mix of projects in the pipeline, including a waste-to-energy plant that is part of the new waste management system, are expected to improve the renewables ratio in the coming years.

Government’s policy also calls for an increase in the use of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Mr. Hew said: “Government is attempting to lead by example and has committed to converting 10 percent of its fleet to electric vehicles over the next five years. Several electric cars are already in service and the infrastructure to support them – such as charging stations – are planned for installation at various locations.”

He said greener vehicles was one of several initiatives government is planning to aid the conversion to cleaner energy sources.

He also highlighted plans to install renewables on several government buildings and said government was working with the Caribbean Utilities Company to change street lighting to more energy efficient LED lights.

The broader challenge facing policymakers is to move away from fossil fuels. CUC still generates almost all of the island’s electricity from fossil fuels, primarily diesel.

Mr. Hew highlighted the potential of ocean thermal conversion technology – a technique which harnesses the solar energy in tropical coastal waters to create electricity – as one possible future energy source for Cayman.

OTEC Cayman is in the development stages of a plan that ultimately hopes to use the technology to provide around 25 megawatts of energy from a series of floating power platforms off North Side. Mr. Hew said CUC and government were looking at all options for future energy production and said the 70 percent target was “realistic and achievable.”

He added, “The very characteristics that have made the Cayman Islands a desirable destination, namely our sun, sea and tropical breezes, also hold the potential to service the energy needs of our population …

“Moving to a low-carbon future is both an overwhelming moral imperative, and a substantial opportunity. I consider such a transition to be one of the most important issues not just of our time, but of any time, and I am proud to be part of a Government that has the vision and ambition to make it our reality.”

Mr. Whittaker said he was encouraged by Mr. Hew’s remarks at the conference and looked forward to working with the minister to hit that target. He said Cayman would need to add an average of around 10 megawatts of renewables per year for the next 20 years to hit 70 percent by 2037.

“Currently less than five percent of energy is renewable, so we still have a long way to go, but a relatively short time to get there.”

James Whittaker, the president of the Cayman Renewable Energy Association, is no relation to James Whittaker, the writer of this article.

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