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Is Aruba really in the forefront of the renewable energy movement? The short answer according to CREF Chairman Jerry Butler – “Yes!”


One of the principal policies of Aruba’s government since 2009, with the election of Mike Eman and a majority in Parliament of his AVP party, has been the conversion of the island from using fossil fuel, and the attainment of a fully sustainable Aruba by the year 2020.

This ambitious vision has directed legislation and investment, while the diplomacy and statesmanship of Prime Minister Eman has garnered the island some impressive partners in this vision. Not the least of these are the co-founders of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, (CREF) which was conducted here over October 9-11, in conjunction with the 4th annual Green Aruba Energy Conference.
Co-founder and Chairman of CREF, Jerry Butler, impressed the audience greatly during the opening of the Green Aruba Conference on Wednesday morning. He is a dynamic, charismatic speaker and he praised the island for the bold steps it is taking in achieving its goal of 100% sustainability. He is a native Bahamian, and has been bro­­­- kering sustainability projects throughout the region for some years, with an eye towards profitability, while preserving the environment. He founded CREF with Matthew Perks, and this was the fifth CREF event, attracting technology providers, investors and go­vernment officials from around the globe.
THE MORNING NEWS had the opportunity to sit with Mr. Butler, who can justifiably be considered an expert on the subject of the Caribbean and sustainability. He sits on the board of the Latin American Council on Renewable Energy. His work takes him to all corners of the region, examining facilities and sustainability projects, talking to engineers, ministers, technology innovators and investors, as well as acting as a “mystery pollster” with the citizenry, to survey their actions and understanding of the sustainability issue.
Mr. Butler was highly forthcoming and candid, readily examining both sides of the issue, where the Aruban administration deserves praise, and some of the shortcomings which need to be remedied for the island to attain the goal. The question was “Is Aruba really that far ahead, outdistan­cing other islands in the region? Are other islands on par or further advanced than Aruba in incorporating sustai­nability policies?”
“The answer is,” replied Mr. Butler, “Aruba has taken steps, both in terms of legislation and moving ahead from a practical perspective, in a demonstrative way, which the other islands wish to emulate, and have been talking about doing for some time. If you go back to my initial policy speeches about where the Caribbean should be headed, the first thing we talk about is the need for a coherent legislative strategy, and Aruba has it.”
“So, the short answer is yes, Aruba is ahead of the curve. The more in-depth response is, like all Caribbean countries, we attend to things in delicate steps, because we have resource restrictions. The first restriction everyone thinks we have is financial, but usually it is intellectual capacity, and the will to move forward.”
“We have always maintained that in order for an effective renewable policy to move forward, you need a statement and a will from the top, which is associated with some kind of climate change commitment. Aruba has done that. The person at the very top of your legislative initiative, Prime Minister Eman, going to a climate change conference like Rio, convinced us “We are going to get it done.” His statement and his ambitions are bold and progressive, and I would say very, very ambitious, given the landscape for financing and technical resources.”
“The second thing we talk about is at the practical and implementation level. How often is the actual community, the man on the street, involved in seeing the actual benefits in moving to renewable energy? You have initiatives such as, with transportation, you now have a green bus. Yesterday I took a ride on such transport for the first time on any Caribbean island.”

I purchased an electric car when The Bahamas exercised an 85% duty on all cars with no distinction. When I pointed out to them that this is a vehicle with zero gas emissions and the situation, I asked le­gislators, “What are you going to do?” It took them about two years to change the customs duties to allow a special exemption for electric cars, so it never took off. Here you have a country that had already moved forward, where they are not talking about an electric car, but a transportation network of electric buses. That is innovative.”
“The ability in all of these challenges, to make these little steps and move forward, and help the little man on the street, is evident when you go to the technology center, and you see them training people in how to install a new solar panel; it’s there. The opportunity to convert your housing infrastructure to being eco-friendly, is there in a plan. Where they are going to get the technical and finance resources, they are pursuing vigorously.”
“I am tremendously impressed and pleased with what I see happening here in Aruba. On a comparative scale, when you ask me “Is Aruba further ahead of the curve than most of the other Caribbean countries I continue to deal with? The broad answer is “Yes.” It is remarkable because it is such a little country with limited resources, but it has young, vibrant people, who have, to be frank, the cojones to believe they can make a difference. That is always the first step. That means I am not depressed about Aruba, I am very, very impressed. I am also optimistic as to where you are going. Will they achieve 2020? A full decolonization from fossil fuel generation?”
Mr. Butler pointed that the introduction of natural gas, which even though immensely cleaner than diesel, is still a fossil fuel, and must be considered in the equation. He had some observances regarding improving the connection between the practices of the general populace and the government’s stated policies. These will be detailed in a follow up article in tomorrow’s edition of THE MORNING NEWS.


Category/ies:News, Regional News.
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