A Caribbean electric grid would have huge economic and environmental benefits across the region and the time for action is now, Delegate Donna Christensen told an energy-environment group discussing the political, financial and technical viability of such a grid Friday in Puerto Rico.
Christensen spoke at the Fourth International Conference of the International Center for Environmental Studies and Sustainable Development, being held this weekend at the Universidad del Turabo-Gurabo.
“With over 95 percent of oil consumed in the Caribbean being imported and some of the highest electricity generation costs in the world, we no longer have the luxury of just being on the right path,” Christensen told regional leaders at the session titled “Towards a Regional Grid: Legislation & Policy Implications,” according to a statement from her office.
The session included discussions on the Financial Structure for Interconnection Projects, Energy Trading and the Regional Grid and Techno-Economic Architecture.
Christensen said that this is not a goal that island nations and territories can do singly.
“The time for us to bring together our greatest minds and share our resources to realize this important goal is now,” she said.
“By decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, and connecting to increase economies of scale, governments in the Caribbean will be able to reallocate funds previously spent on imported fuel to important social and economic development initiatives while simultaneously decreasing carbon and other green house gas emissions and protecting the precious natural resources that serve as the basis for our tourism and agricultural products,” she said, “and we will be better able to weather the storms that plague us far too often.”
Congressional hearings in Frederiksted in 2008 that she called for led to the Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) project to securing funding for a feasibility study of the proposed Virgin Islands – Puerto Rico grid, Christensen said. The feasibility study is near completion and "early reports indicate tremendous opportunities,” she said.
While the current political climate in the U.S. House of Representatives favors more drilling for oil rather than seeking alternatives, there was still great support from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for Caribbean energy initiatives, she said
“Despite all of the negative rhetoric, I still hold that there is no better time than the present to aggressively pursue the deployment of technologies such as solar, wind, waste to energy, geothermal, hydro and grid interconnection,” she said. “I am elated that the first link of the chain will begin between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”