Sir Richard Branson among the ruins of his Necker Island on the BVI following the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Twitter image/Sir Richard Branson)
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Thurs. Oct. 19, 2017: For Virgin Group Founder, Sir Richard Branson, the time is now for Caribbean leaders to lean in and embrace a renewable energy future.
Weeks after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated several Caribbean islands, Branson, who lived through Hurricane Irma on the British Virgin Islands, and CEO of BMR Energy Bruce Levy, are set to meet with energy industry and government leaders from across the Caribbean to discuss renewable energy development following the recent hurricanes in the region.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria were devastating. It’s certain more of these intense hurricanes will be brought on by climate change in the coming years. There has never been a more important time to push for renewable energy in the Caribbean,” said Branson.
The Virgin Group founder said the two leaders are bringing together international leaders and experts who are in the best position to build a cleaner, more resilient energy future for the Caribbean.
The issue of an off the grid, clean energy future for the Caribbean will be the focus of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF), which opened in Miami on Weds. Oct. 18th, and will run through Fri. Oct. 20.
CREF, the largest annual gathering of the Caribbean energy market, brings together regional and global influencers in renewable energy industries and will include presentations from BMR Energy executives.
BMR will also co-host a private reception with Branson, whose company Virgin Group acquired BMR in 2016, to advance dialogue and collaboration with the aim of accelerating progress on clean energy rebuilding projects.
In addition to creating energy security for the region, rebuilding from the hurricanes with renewable energy is also an opportunity to highlight the fact that many of the affected islands have some of the world’s highest electricity prices, largely as a result of dependence on imported fossil fuels like diesel, BMR said in a press statement Wednesday.
Renewable energy projects like solar and wind farms offer solutions to both challenges: lower costs stemming from generating electricity without the need for fuel and decentralized resources that are more resilient and easier to repair after natural disasters, the company’s executives added.
Branson, a resident of the BVI, which were devastated by Hurricane Irma, is a huge advocate of renewable energy. He hopes that the BMR reception will enhance industry leaders’ support of his vision for an internationally-funded effort to make renewable energy the centerpiece of rebuilding efforts.
The destructive impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria have been felt across the Caribbean islands and beyond.
Damage to power infrastructure is widespread, according to CREF. In some areas of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the power is expected to be out for months. On Anguilla and Dominica, 90 percent of the electricity grid is damaged while Barbuda’s entire electricity network is in ruins. In the British Virgin Islands (BVI), key generation and distribution infrastructure also faced catastrophic damage.
Access to electricity across many other hurricane-impacted Caribbean islands remains extremely limited.
Renewable energy advocates are now champing at the bit, seizing the opportunity to encourage the Caribbean to build smarter, cleaner – and more resilient – power systems.
In a recent article, Rocky Mountain Institute echoed the views of many when they wrote that the “tragedy of Hurricane Irma can be a catalyst to transform destruction into opportunity – an opportunity to build back better and cleaner.”
Now Branson is ensuring he keeps the issue on the front burner as Caribbean leaders look for money to rebuild and restore their beloved islands.