Branson hosts renewable energy summit

2014-02-05 13:28
Sir Richard Branson and President Jacob Zuma have met to discuss a new healthcare initiative. (Jacoline Prinsloo, AFP, file)

Sir Richard Branson and President Jacob Zuma have met to discuss a new healthcare initiative. (Jacoline Prinsloo, AFP, file)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kingston - Caribbean politicians and renewable power experts gathered on British billionaire Richard Branson's private isle to discuss ways of transitioning to clean energy in an effort to spur small island nations to slash their dependence on fossil fuels and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Branson, the CEO and founder of the Virgin Group of companies, is hosting a three-day meeting of political and business leaders at Necker Island, his home in the British Virgin Islands where he has developed an exclusive eco-resort showcasing renewable energy technology.

The event is organised by the Carbon War Room, a non-profit company Branson co-founded to promote cutbacks in greenhouse-gas emissions through smart private enterprise.

It hopes to help small islands become carbon-neutral by accelerating commercial investment. Political delegations from 13 countries and territories, including several heads of state, are attending along with representatives from dozens of companies and multinational organisations.

Branson said he believes the sun-splashed, wind-swept Caribbean can set a global example by embracing renewable power and energy self-reliance. The region with deep renewable resources and scant energy security now derives nearly all of its electricity from plants that burn imported oil and diesel.

Energy security

"We're hoping to get a number of islands to sign up to get as carbon-neutral as they can over the next few years," Branson said in a phone interview from Necker, a 30ha getaway for jetsetters that is also home to over 200 flamingos.

Soaring power costs and the lack of energy security are major regional concerns. Jose Maria Figueres, a former Costa Rican president who is now the president of the Carbon War Room, said most import-dependent Caribbean islands pay 35 to 55 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Miami-area households pay an average of 11.5c/kWh.

Regional governments have long recognised that pricey oil-generated power from utilities with a virtual monopoly on electricity makes their fragile economies even less competitive but most have made little progress with solar, wind and geothermal power.

But proven renewable energy technologies offer islands the chance to reduce this significant burden for their economies and consumers, Figueres said.

Jamaican Energy Minister Philip Paulwell recently said his country must reduce power costs from 42c/kwh to between 15c - 18c to be more competitive. Loan funding and removing taxes on solar energy equipment "will enable our people to participate in generating their own electricity and to sell it back to the grid".

Since cash-strapped Caribbean governments don't have the money to introduce new public generating assets, independent power producer models are used on the islands, said Lynn Tabernacki, managing director of renewable energy programmes at the US government's Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

In an e-mail, Tabernacki said Caribbean island states present an opportunity, contrary to most markets where there is a struggle for renewables to achieve grid parity and considerable commercial and political risks if it's not achieved.


Because in the Caribbean renewables would compete with the high cost of diesel and imported oil, she said there's a "strong commercial argument for making the switch as quickly and efficiently as possible".

"The islands of the Caribbean have a significant opportunity to implement renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that could have dramatic economic, social, and environmental impacts," she said.

On Necker, attendees are participating in renewable energy workshops across five areas: Schools, hospitals, transport, tourism and utility scale renewable energy distribution for small islands.
Read more on:    energy  |  climate change

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Sniffing out No 2

2016-10-24 16:53 publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.