Abundant Renewable Energy Resources ‘Untapped’
The Turks and Caicos Islands has one of the highest reported greenhouse gas emissions in the Caribbean due to its reliance on fossil fuels. Almost all of its abundant renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind power, remain untapped.
This is according to a report prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a national laboratory of the US Department of Energy which leverages the experiences of islands, states, and cities that have established a long-term vision for energy transformation to achieve clean energy goals.
The report highlighted that in 2015 electricity rates in the Turks and Caicos Islands were $0.29 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), slightly below the Caribbean regional average of $0.33/kWh.
Like many island nations, the TCI is almost 100 percent reliant on imported fossil fuel, leaving it vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations that have a direct impact on the cost of electricity.
According a survey which was conducted in 2015, the TCI has significant opportunities for clean energy transformation which will see the reduction in fuel imports, will greatly help to reduce emissions and will improve air and water quality.
It noted that as with other island grids, the Turks and Caicos Islands needs to invest in grid upgrades in order to see significant reductions in fuel imports.
“Abundant wind and solar resources, as well as the potential for other renewable sources could help Turks and Caicos meet or exceed its peak demand of 34.7 MW,” it read.
“Even partial development of these resources where economically viable and technically feasible from a grid integration standpoint could result in high-penetration of renewables onto the electrical grid.”
As it relates to clean energy policies the report pointed out that the Turks and Caicos Islands has few policies related to energy efficiency and renewable energy.
“Historically, the territory has not implemented policy mechanisms to aid in the development of clean and energy-efficient technologies.
“In fact, some policies inhibit their implementation; a ban on new electricity generators, self-generation, and feed-in tariffs is currently in place, minimising the opportunities for clean energy development regardless of technical and economic potential.
“Current regulations and legislation do not require utilities to implement energy efficiency measures.
“The current regulatory structure allows for utility profit to be built into the budget to act as a financial buffer and a contingency in case of emergency.”
The report further outlined that the Turks and Caicos Islands has almost no experience with renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
“Almost all renewable energy resources have remained untapped, largely because of the need to upgrade institutional and regulatory frameworks, lack of interconnection protocols, and the need for investments in distribution system upgrades.
“The region has substantial solar resources (5.7 kWh/ square metre) each day with more than 350 days of strong sunshine, strong average winds (greater than seven metres per second), powerful waves, and a large thermal gradient on the shores (necessary for ocean thermal energy conversion).”
It posited that once wave and ocean thermal technologies are proven in the marketplace, ocean energy and ocean thermal energy conversions have potential as well.
In 2010, the Turks and Caicos Islands Government contracted with a consultant to draft recommendations for exploring the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to create a more sustainable energy framework.
In 2011, the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources commissioned the National Energy Conservation Policy and Implementation Strategy resulting in the establishment of rules and incentives for the promotion of utility-scale and distributed renewable energy needs.
Further strategic energy planning was undertaken in 2012, although it is unclear the extent to which these planning activities have resulted in policy changes.
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