Hurricane Irma was one of the deadliest storms to hit the North Atlantic over recent times and has left untold devastation in its path. As recorded by the RMI Outlet, in total Hurricane Irma has caused “an estimated US$10 billion in damages and the overall economic losses could be tenfold higher”. The tragedy of the hurricane has been a catalyst in allowing governments and leaders of the affected Islands to realise that having caused untold damage across the Caribbean the storm has left people homeless and without food or water and has highlighted how vulnerable these countries are to natural disruptions.
Hurricane Irma has brought prominence to this issue and has allowed the opportunity for the countries to rebuild better and stronger. One of the key areas to help make this a reality is the “replacing or retrofitting the centralized electricity grid with decentralised resilient renewable power”. Moving to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and battery storage as the main source of power has a wide variety of benefits to the Caribbean that will help continue to grow the islands both financially and economically. In terms of costings renewable energy has become financially more affordable with solar costs falling in retrospect to fossil fuel whose prices are spiking across the US. This would ultimately lower the electricity costs on the islands which are currently reporting to be at “some of the highest in the world at US$0.20-$0.50/kWh” and would lead to less dependency on fossil fuels.
Not only would switching to renewable energy sources better the islands financially but it would also reduce their vulnerability to future storms or other natural disasters. This is due to the fact that some individual microgrids are unlikely to stop working during a storm even if they are knocked out. An example of this being how even though Richard Branson’s Necker Island experienced the same untold devastation, the solar installation which powers the majority of Neckar Island survived the brunt of the storm. The resilience of the microgrids shows the benefits of clean energy and how being more sustainable allows countries more ease when dealing with hurricanes, with the opportunity of a quicker recovery time.
Utilising this opportunity to move to more sustainable ways of providing energy for the islands is ultimately the best outcome and will allow them to rebuild smarter and stronger than they were before. As reported in the RMI this will allow “the Caribbean Islands their very best hope for surviving the next natural challenge while also helping them financially, boosting their economies and improving the entire regions competitiveness”. To reach this outcome this will require input and effort across the Caribbean Islands to ensure resilient and renewable power systems are built and accessible for future use making the move to a stronger and more sustainable future a reality.