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Published on April 2nd, 2012 | by Andrew


High Cost of Diesel Spurs Caribbean Island’s Renewable Energy-Climate Change Plan

April 2nd, 2012 by  

Lying east of the US and British Virgin Islands, the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla’s resident population, at some 15,000, makes it about the size of a small American town. Anguilla, along with its Caribbean island neighbors, is at the forefront of change when it comes to coping with the twin challenges of rising costs– both economically accounted for and “externalized”– of fossil fuel energy and climate change, however.

Reliant on imported diesel for its electricity generation, electricity prices for Anguillans have soared recently, to $0.63 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Growing numbers have found themselves unable to pay their monthly bills, which has prompted the Anguilla Electricity Company (ANGLEC), the island’s sole power provider to cut their power to the point where the 91-square mile island has frequently “been plunged into darkness,” according to an IPS news report.

Residents’ growing ire with the rapid escalation in the cost of electricity has grown to the point where the island’s government is considering turning to renewable energy. It’s crafted a Renewable Energy Project that it hopes will bring reliable, environmentally more sustainable electricity to residents at lower cost.

Reliance on Diesel, Fossil Fuels May Coming to an End?

Speaking to Anguilla’s parliament, Minister of Utilities Evan Gumbs’ explanation of the rationale underlying the Renewable Energy Project should resonate with Americans, particularly given the Republicans’ present tactic of attempting to use the issue of rising gasoline and petroleum costs against Pres. Obama.

“Our exclusive reliance on conventional energy sources, i.e., diesel fuel, is the primary reason for the high prices we pay for electricity,” Minister Gumbs stated. “If our dependence on diesel fuel is reduced then we will see a correspondent decrease in the price of electricity.

“It must be remembered that Anguilla has no control over the price of diesel fuel in the world market and thus has no control over its imported price. It therefore follows to a large extent that we in Anguilla have little or no control over the price we pay for electricity, unless and until we reduce our reliance on it.”

Anguilla’s government has approved an Alternative Renewable Energy Bill, established an Alternative Energy Committee and an Anguilla Renewable Energy Office (AREO). Working through the UK’s Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), it’s also hired Castalia Strategic Advisors, a Washington D.C.-based consultancy with expertise in renewable energy planning and development, to assist with its Renewable Energy Project. CDKN’s provided $100,000 to hire the consultants.

Two Birds With One Stone: The Renewable Energy-Climate Change Link

Making amendments to legislation that can foster the adoption of renewable energy technology makes up the first phase the government’s renewable energy teams and Castalia are taking. Recognizing the interrelationship between climate change and energy production and sue, a new policy is being established that links and integrates the two.

“Castalia’s objectives include helping to implement key elements of the National Energy and Climate Change Policy by recommending how to amend electricity legislation to integrate both large and small-scale renewable energy,” senior analyst Laura Berman told IPS. “One of the primary reasons (of the renewable project) is to reduce electricity cost and price volatility. The idea is to do this while also increasing security and enhancing environmental sustainability.”

AREO chairman David Carty stated the issue succinctly. “I keep on saying that the energy crisis is the climate crisis and the climate crisis is the energy crisis. What islands present to this issue, and this is true for the entire Caribbean, is an opportunity to figure out how renewables interact on a closed grid.”

AREO is proposing construction of a wind farm on Anguilla. Lack of freshwater has been an even longer standing problem for the island, one that lead to the collapse of agriculture there centuries ago. In addition to generating clean, renewable power for lighting, industry and commerce and cooling and heating, Carty sees the potential for renewable energy to be used to produce freshwater by using reverse osmosis.

That fresh water could then be provided to local farmers at little or no cost, according to Carty. “As we all know, you can’t store electricity, it has to be used when it is generated. Our argument is we have solved our domestic water problem by establishing a reverse osmosis plant that takes sea water and turns it into fresh water, but the reverse osmosis plant uses enormous amounts of electricity and 60 cents of the dollar in the operation of the reverse osmosis plant is electricity,” Carty told IPS.

As Carty noted, Anguilla’s not the only Caribbean island being forced to come to grips with the twin challenges of rising fossil fuel costs and climate change. The rate of erosion of beach and coastal land on Anguilla and other Caribbean islands has been increasing in recent years.

The European Investment Bank’s helping finance a feasibility and planning study of a geothermal energy project on Dominica and construction of an inter-island transmission line to Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Elsewhere in the eastern Caribbean, a 101-MW wind farm is due to be commissioned on Puerto Rico, while St. Kitts and Nevis continues to try to overcome problems with West Indies Power’s plan to develop a geothermal energy plant and possible submarine transmission cable to Puerto Rico.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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  • Bob_Wallace

    “As we all know, you can’t store electricity, it has to be used when it is generated” – Carty.

    Perhaps the immediate thing Anguilla needs to do is to fire this idiot.

    All of these sunny islands need to be looking at the cost of power and put preconceived notions behind them.

    Commercial scale solar is now $0.15/kWh (SolarBuzz). If they are paying $0.43/kWh for power I suspect they can store electricity for a lot less than $0.28/kWh. At least overnight.

    They must have wind potential which would mean some $0.05/kWh power coming around the clock.

    They know what it costs to run a grid with diesel and they should have a pretty good idea what is going to happen to the price of diesel going forward.

    Right now they could power their grid with a combination of wind and solar, using lead-acid or lithium battery storage. Whether that would be cheaper than burning diesel is a simple calculation.

    Since the diesel generation is already in place, determine the cost of a “24 hour” and “48 hour” renewable system – enough battery storage to get them through the night or through one day of no sun/wind. Bring the diesel generators back on line after 24/48 hours of inadequate renewable input.

    If renewables can produce power for less, then start installing. If OTEC proves out to provide cheaper power then switch over.

    Perhaps a consortium of wind/solar/battery companies needs to engage with a small island and build them a completely renewable grid. That could be what the other islands need to see.

    • Masonc

      Bob, David is not an idiot, he is a RE evangelist but not a technician. He has been told that storing RE power is not feasible.
      Before we worry about storing energy overnight, we could consider using solar during the day, when it is there to use. The utility does not want to consider that, claiming it is too unreliable. A small amount of storage would help with that issue, if anyone would think a little outside their container.
      If you look at our power graphs, it is pretty steady. A utility could integrate that without issue, certainly up to 20% peak load.
      the issue is not a technical one, is is more about people holding on to power and not being willing to work for the common good. That’s all it is.

      • Bob_Wallace

        If you want to attest to Carty being a “RE evangelist” then I’ll change my statement to:

        “Perhaps the immediate thing Anguilla needs to do is to educate this guy so he does not repeat this idiotic claim.”

        Now, of course you use solar first to supply power directly to the grid. And with a diesel-fed grid you’re in a great place to get going. You’re dealing with a semi-dispatchable source as opposed to something like nuclear which you can’t turn on and off quickly.

    • Masonc

      Two more issues with you comments
      1) SOlar Energy is 15c IN THE US. In a small island with very high land prices, it is not so cheap.
      2) They are not buying power at 43c, they are selling it at 43c. What you have to consider is the avoided cost of using solar, which is claimed to be about 25c. You could ask how they get from 25c generating cost to 43c selling price without being put in jail, that’s one I would like an answer to, but do use 25c as avoided cost in evaluating utility solar. The difference is not that much and the pass through difference to the consumer is very little.

      • Bob_Wallace

        That’s on top of commercial buildings. I don’t have prices for large array ground mounts.

  • Mike Straub

    The real no brainer is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). The process of using the temperature difference in shallow and deep ocean water to create emission free power. And the only byproduct is millions of gallons of fresh drinking water! Forbes reported this week on OTEC growth throughout the Caribbean (

    Anguilla needs to talk to their neighbors. OTEC is here to solve their energy concerns, pour clean water for the masses, and improve the lives of millions of people for generations to come.

    Lots more info on how OTEC works, and how it is drastically cutting the Caribbean’s addiction to fossil fuels at The On Project.

    • Masonc

      The technology behind OTEC looks very promising and I really hope it gains acceptance. But to propose that Anguilla venture that direction is to ignore that Anguilla won’t even use a technology like solar even though it is in use everywhere in the world and Anguilla has the best sunshine you could want. Meanwhile Anguilla and many of the other islands are happy to go broke buying diesel.
      What hope would you have that an emergent technology like OTEC would find interest here?

  • Cometenergysystems

    There is a number of things wrong with this article.
    1) The price of electricity is wrong, Anguilla’s electricity is 0.433 USD.
    2) The only real Renewable Energy in Anguilla is the system on Hughes Clinic, and the utility tried hard to stop it. It was only the determination of the owner that made it happen.
    3) David’s “60 cents on the dollar” is EC$

    If Anguilla is at the forefront of the development of RE as you claim, everyone else is running backwards. Jamaica, St. Lucia, Greneda, and other islands have implemented net-metering in some form, Anguilla has not. This means that you can have solar, but you cannot interconnect it with the grid. All the developed countries of the world incentivize solar, Anguilla outlaws it. Castilia has stated they are not in favour of net-metered residential solar, so I don’t see any progress.

    Chris Mason
    Comet Energy Systems, Anguilla,

  • anderlan

    No brainer! Even with shipping, at 0.63/kwh, the ROI on PV should be fantastic! It also seems like they might up the capacity of their osmosis plant and run it less often on diesel, more on PV or wind. It’s an ideal renewables situation, when water production relies on energy production, because water is kept in a reservoir until used.

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