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Connolly Presses CIG To act on energy policy

Winston Connolly in the LA, 5 May 2016

Winston Connolly in the LA, 5 May 2016

(CNS): Government has accepted a motion presented by the opposition MLA for George Town, Winston Connolly, to consider legislating a new energy policy to meet global standards on sustainable development and climate change, but it doesn’t appear likely to happen anytime soon. Despite a passionate debate by the former government backbencher about the desperate need for Cayman to reduce its dependence on diesel, the minister with responsibility said a committee to examine an energy policy had not yet been established.

As he spoke about his proposals during the recent LA meeting, Connolly warned his colleagues about the dangers of climate change and the rise in sea levels for a small island nation such as ours. He offered a list of ways government could make a difference to the current situation in Cayman, where renewable energy and sustainability are still not taken seriously.

On Monday, the US National Atmospheric Space Administration (NASA) released the latest record breaking temperature statistics that some scientists are now calling a climate emergency.

Grand Cayman’s over-development along its coastline and the destruction of significant amounts of mangroves have made the island particularly vulnerable to further and more rapid coastal erosion but successive governments have failed to prioritise the environment and have habitually placed development ahead of conservation. No government has yet legislated a definitive plan to embrace alternative energy or sustainable development policies that could reduce the country’s vulnerability to rising seas.

“We have to be concerned about extreme weather and rising sea levels caused by climate change,” Connolly told his fellow MLAs. “As a low-lying island, we are going to be affected long before the big polluters are.”

In his debate, Connolly said Cayman must reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and it could start by putting solar panels on the roofs or car parks of government buildings, installing them in the homes of families on low incomes, making more use of natural gas and encouraging the use of electric cars by cutting the duty on them.

As well as meeting the islands’ obligations to reach what many scientists believe are the modest goals agreed at the recent climate summit in Paris, Connolly urged his colleagues to support a push in Cayman towards solar power and to train Caymanians to work in the alternative energy sector.

Criticising Grand Cayman’s current monopoly power provider, Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), for poor grid management, Connolly said the technology had changed and CUC needed to keep up. According to experts, he said, the grid could handle much more renewable energy.

However, the MLA said he did not believe the utility companies would do anything on their own and government had to act. When people are forced to choose between paying a mortgage or their power bill, electricity had reached the point where it was too expensive and it was time to convert to a low carbon environment, he said.

Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts welcomed Connolly’s motion and said government was “near to the point of getting a committee up and running”. He said a consultant had recently been engaged to work on the creation of a utilities commission.

Referring to the proposal for an energy policy put forward by the last administration, which had not been acted on, Tibbetts claimed that it was not gathering dust but needed to be reviewed. There were also problems sewn into government’s agreement with CUC over increasing alternative energy, he said, noting that any review committee would have to consider that deal and make specific recommendations for a long-term sustainable plan.

Tibbetts said that Cayman had written to the creators of the regional climate project the Ten Island Challenge, which began some two years ago, enquiring about becoming involved.

However, he said, there were difficulties putting solar panels on the roof of the Government Administration Building due to “legal issues”, which he did not detail, about the building and it was not yet “signed off”.

Admitting that the current government had been slow over the issue of developing an energy policy, Tibbetts said, “It’s not where we should be three years into the administration.” But there were “a lot of issues to consider”, he added, as a he spoke about needing to get everyone to agree on how to provide solar power for low income households.



Category/ies:Cayman Island News, News, Renewable Energy, Solar Energy.
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