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VI should get serious about green energy

It is high time for the Virgin Islands to start switching to alternative energy. Already, the territory is being left behind by many of its Caribbean neighbours.

The VI is ripe for green options like solar and wind energy, as many leaders seem to recognise: They have repeatedly paid lip service to such ideas. Premier Ralph O’Neal has gone so far as to suggest that the territory should consider becoming entirely “carbon neutral.”

But besides the work of a few resorts and private developers, very little meaningful action has been taken toward such goals.

Currently, the VI has no plan in place to move to green energy in the future, and it offers no significant incentives to encourage change.

Unfortunately, the government didn’t keep its promise in its 2008 Speech from the Throne to lay “sustainable energy legislation” on the table of the House of Assembly. Instead, the promise was dropped the next year, and it hasn’t reappeared since.

Currently, existing legislation actually discourages the use of alternative energy here. Likely as a result, a major supermarket reported recently that it was unable to obtain permission from the government to install an extensive solar power system. In this day and age, this is nothing short of shocking.

Granted, there are technical challenges associated with switching to alternative energy. But they clearly are not insurmountable, as other countries and territories around the Caribbean are making the change.

Indeed, this territory’s inaction puts it in stark contrast with many of its regional neighbours. The United States Virgin Islands, for example, has pledged to reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent by the year 2025, and it has implemented various programmes to promote solar energy. Dominica, Barbados, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and others have made substantial investments in wind farms. Many countries in the region also have passed tax incentives designed to promote energy alternatives.

All of these options are worth considering here.

Besides the obvious environmental perks, alternative energy will help the territory become more self sufficient, and less dependent on the unpredictable international oil market. This will become increasingly important in the coming decades, when experts predict the world’s oil supplies will dwindle.

The tourism industry also stands to benefit: Internationally, tourists increasingly are taking into consideration destinations’ commitment to the environment.

Finally, though alternative energy may require a larger upfront investment, it often saves money in the long run.

We are glad that some VI citizens are calling for change. Currently, the non-profit group Green VI is petitioning government to “amend existing legislation and promote clean, sustainable energy and energy conservation.” This goal is laudable, and the government should listen.

Moving forward, the VI should draft a long-term plan that sets out specific, reasonable goals for establishing significant alternative energy sources. Then it should stick to that plan.

In the coming months, this topic should feature prominently in the campaign dialogue leading up to this year’s elections. After all, the issue is one of the major challenges facing today’s Virgin Islands, and the territory can’t afford to fall further behind.


Source: The Beacon

Category/ies:British Virgin Island.
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