BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, on a quest to become the world’s first sustainable island state, has taken a giant leap in its programme to cut energy costs.
Last week, the government broke ground to construct the country’s second solar farm, and Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas told IPS his administration is “committed to free the country from the fossil fuel reliance” which has burdened so many nations for so very long.
“This farm will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that St. Kitts and Nevis pumps into the atmosphere. It will move forward our country’s determination to transform St. Kitts and Nevis into a green and sustainable nation.” —Prime Minister Dr. Denzil DouglasDouglas said the aim is “to harness the power of the sun – a power which nature has given to us in such great abundance in this very beautiful country, St. Kitts and Nevis.
“The energy generated will be infused into the national grid, and this will reduce SKELEC’s need for imported fossil fuels,” he said, referring to the state electricity provider.
“This farm will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that St. Kitts and Nevis pumps into the atmosphere. It will move forward our country’s determination to transform St. Kitts and Nevis into a green and sustainable nation. It will reduce the cost of energy and it will reduce the cost of electricity for our consumers,” Douglas added.
Electricity costs more than 42.3 cents per KWh in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Construction of the second solar plant is being funded by the St. Kitts Electricity Corporation (SKELEC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan). SKELEC is assuming 45 percent of the cost and the Republic of China (Taiwan) 55 percent of the costs.
The first solar farm, commissioned in September 2013, generates electricity for the Robert L. Bradshaw International Airport.
Meanwhile, as environmental sustainability gains traction in the Caribbean, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, said the region is on the right track to better integrate environmental considerations into public policies.
“I think in some respects it is in the Caribbean that we are already seeing some very bold leadership,” Steiner told IPS.
“The minute countries start looking at the implications of environmental change on their future and the future of their economies, you begin to realise that if you don’t integrate environmental sustainability, you are essentially going to face, very often, higher risks and higher costs and perhaps the loss of assets.” He said such assets could include land, forests, coral reefs or fisheries.
Caribbean coral reefs have experienced drastic losses in the past several decades and this has been cited by numerous studies as the primary cause of ongoing declines of Caribbean fish populations. Fish use the structure of corals for shelter and they also contribute to coastal protection.
It has been estimated that fisheries associated with coral reefs in the Caribbean region are responsible for generating net annual revenues valued at or above 310 million dollars.
Continued degradation of the region’s few remaining coral reefs would diminish these net annual revenues by an estimated 95-140 million dollars annually from 2015. The subsequent decrease in dive tourism could also profoundly affect annual net tourism revenues.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his government will not be left behind in pursuit of a policy of reducing the carbon footprint by incorporating more renewable energy into the mix.
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