Bahamas Joins Branson’s Caribbean Clean Energy Initiative

By Ezra Fieser

The Bahamas plans to cut fuel imports by as much as 5 percent by building several small solar panel fields after signing on to billionaire Richard Branson’s Caribbean clean energy initiative.

The solar fields, which will generate as much as 20 megawatts of electricity for the Bahamas’ sparsely populated Family Islands, are part of the government’s plan to move toward renewable energy under Virgin Group founder Branson’s Ten Island Challenge.

“The economics make complete sense,” said Justin Locke, director of islands at Carbon War Room, the Branson-funded organization overseeing the Ten Island Challenge. “You can significantly reduce the cost of electricity generation, harness natural resources, and retrain people” to work in the industry, he added.

The agreement comes as the government attempts to overhaul its energy sector to cut costs and wean itself from imported diesel fuel for electricity generation. Electricity costs an average of 37 cents per kilowatt hour in the Bahamas, more than three times the average U.S. rate, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The government is searching for a company to manage its public utility, Bahamas Electricity Corp., which has struggled with $450 million in debt that Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis said the government plans to remove from the utility’s books, without providing details.

The Bahamas government spent $726 million last year on fuel, about 22 percent of all imports, according to the country’s Department of Statistics.

Solar Projects

Locke said the country, or a private investor, would build several solar panel projects, each capable of generating 2 to 3 megawatts. The government also plans to switch street lamps to more efficient LED bulbs, install solar panels at a high school, and come up with a detailed plan to transition away from fossil fuels.

The Family Islands, also known as the Out Islands, include Andros, Bimini, Eleuthera and the Abacos.

Branson announced the Ten Island Challenge last year. The Bahamas is the sixth country to join the initiative, following Aruba, Grenada, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, and Colombia, which is implementing renewable plans on the islands of Providencia and San Andres.

 

Reposted from: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-10/bahamas-joins-branson-s-caribbean-clean-energy-initiative.html

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