Report proposes Caribbean countries embrace green energy solutions in the wake of COVID-19

A Rocky Mountain Institute report published yesterday is proposing that Caribbean countries can bounce back from the economic impact of COVID-19 while also diversifying local economies and building resiliency against hurricanes by embracing green energy solutions.

The report, titled “Green Stimulus in the Caribbean: Resilient Distributed Energy Resources Can Support Job Creation and Economic Diversification”, outlines several options that it says Caribbean countries in particular can take advantage of to see benefits in the immediate and long run. 

“Many islands in the Caribbean are transitioning from electricity systems that are traditionally centralized in nature and powered by fossil fuels, to a new paradigm incorporating DERs (distributed energy resources),” the report reads.

“While this transition was underway prior to the current global COVID-19 pandemic, stimulus efforts to recover from its effects should aim to accelerate progress in implementing DER solutions and provide other significant benefits. The main need in the near term to support a successful recovery is jobs; advancing DER projects such as solar photovoltaics (PV), wind, electric vehicles and energy efficiency creates immediate and diverse jobs, including project managers, electricians, civil engineers, electrical and mechanical engineers, plumbers, machinists, heavy equipment operators, technicians, metal workers, general construction workers, designers and salespeople.”

It adds, “The analysis presented here focuses on representative islands in the Caribbean and shows an opportunity to create immediate job opportunities to offset approximately half of the job loss seen during the current pandemic by focusing stimulus efforts on DERs, including 750 jobs over five years by pursuing 50 megawatts of solar PV; 300 jobs over five years by pursuing 30 megawatts of wind; 300 jobs over three to four years by converting 10,000 vehicles to electric; 300 jobs by installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure for every 10,000 vehicles; and 100 jobs and 80 percent energy savings by investing $10 million in energy efficiency updates in existing buildings.”

The study suggests that in light of the mass unemployment many Caribbean countries are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many unemployed skilled workers could be put to work in the solar power sector immediately if green energy is expanded; and that youth training programs could be implemented to train and certify those wishing to enter the field.

It notes, however, that wind energy jobs would come at a slower pace than solar power.

But it strongly suggests the use of electric vehicles for jobs, fuel savings and the environmental benefit of Caribbean countries being rid of the used Japanese cars that are typically imported then abandoned in just a few years. 

According to the report, the jobs created from such enterprises would be high-paying and required skilled work, which “much of the region’s labor force is qualified in”.

 The study suggests that underground electricity be implemented as part of a green energy approach so that electricity could more quickly be restored in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane .

It also states that an expansion in sectors such as “agriculture, information technology and advanced transportation” could be supported through the use of green technology, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism has been particularly devastating for many Caribbean countries. 

“Along with the clear opportunity to include DERs in stimulus packages, both local and international stakeholders can take additional steps to support Caribbean islands in achieving the benefits outlined in this paper,” the report reads.

It suggests options such as to “backstop electric utility credit and ensure access to low-interest credit to incentivize public-private sector investments”, and to “create clean energy lines of credit”.

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