The economic benefits of renewable energy

By Dominic Dyer

Every month, the Camana Bay Times invites a Dart Scholar to write about a topic of their choice to invite the community to learn more about their experiences and interests. Read on to hear from Dominic Dyer, a 2017 William A. Dart Memorial University Scholar, as he shares his thoughts on renewable energy in the Cayman Islands.

The warning signs are there: 29 named storms in the Atlantic Basin in 2020; the warmest decade in history; record levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Yet as of 2015, renewable energy accounted for only 0.2% of Cayman’s total primary energy supply, and 0.9% of Cayman’s electricity generation according to the National Energy Policy. These figures have somewhat improved with the completion of the 5MW Solar Farm in Bodden Town, as well as the approval of additional Consumer Owned Renewable Energy — or CORE — tranches and the introduction of the Distributed Energy Resource Programme. However, renewable energy still makes up a relatively insignificant portion of Cayman's energy supply.

The Cayman Islands is ideally suited to harness solar energy, given the abundance of sunlight — averaging over 6 hours per day — and land in the eastern districts could be used for utility-scale solar installations. In addition to this, there are suitable sites for onshore and offshore wind generation. Other sources of renewable energy being explored by Dart and the Cayman Islands Government include energy from landfill gases as well as a waste-to-energy facility.

While there is a clear understanding from the general population of the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy, evidenced by the strong support for renewable projects and the quick uptake of newly released CORE tranches, more decisive action should be taken.

Cayman has a lot to gain by embracing renewable energy, both environmentally and economically. By marketing itself as a “green destination," it can attract tourists and new residents. This is increasingly important as Millennials and Generation Z, who care much more about environmental issues, begin to relocate and travel.

Because Grand Cayman is a low-lying island, it is also in the country's best interest to help slow down global warming, due to the impact of rising sea levels.

Furthermore, additional renewable energy will result in increased energy security for Cayman, as it becomes less dependent on fossil fuels.

The list of potential actions could also include:

  • Solar-covered parking at the airport to greet visitors on arrival and protect locals' cars from the relentless Caymanian sun
  • Low interest loans for Caymanians to install solar energy systems on their homes
  • Waived import duties on electric vehicles
  • Electric government fleets and public buses
  • Incentives for green technology companies to relocate to Cayman
  • Training opportunities for young Caymanians who want to enter the renewable energy industry

Dart is already beginning to lead by example by installing solar panels in Camana Bay and on new hotel projects such as Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, building the first mixed-use commercial building in the Caribbean to gain LEED Gold certification and pursuing the creation of a waste-to-energy facility. Hopefully other private corporations and the Cayman Islands Government will follow suit.

This article originally appeared in the January 2021 issue of the Camana Bay Times.