Breaking renewable energy barriers in the Caribbean

Virgin Unite_Climate Smart Accelerator_CREF
Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
12 November 2020
A task force led by the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator is fast developing a resilience fund for Caribbean renewable energy.

Racquel Moses, CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, along with an incredible coalition of business partners, is making progress on the fund solution that was announced last year at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF).

The winning proposal, shared at the 2019 Island Resilience Action Challenge (part of the CREF), was to create a regional, blended, financial fund for climate-resilient infrastructure – at the moment, they are targeting a $100 million dollar blended financial facility.

The fund will give project developers the ability to raise new debt for infrastructure investments, as well as provide clean energy entrepreneurs’ with access to new and customised sources of capital for both starting and scaling-up.

Environmental issues are at the top of the Caribbean’s policy agenda with sustainable ideas and inspired leadership gaining momentum across the region. To date, six Caribbean countries have shared plans for achieving 100% renewable energy, with Costa Rica already hitting that target.

“While we are may be falling behind on some of our renewable energy transition goals, we have identified access to funding as one of the main barriers in this region,” Moses explained.

Over the last 12 months, the task force has reviewed 118 clean energy projects across 11 Caribbean countries and shortlisted 27 projects for further review. The development of the fund continues to build its pipeline of projects with the potential to transform the regions renewable energy landscape.

Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator
Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator

The fund is focused not only on increasing the affordable implementation of renewable energy projects, but also on using those projects as a mechanism to create jobs and energy independence – a means of building back shattered economies formerly reliant on tourism, one of the hardest hit sectors.

Providing funding that does not increase the price of renewable energy to end-consumers is key to building energy independence in the region. “If a project is viable, and what is missing is the funding to get it built, that is exactly who this fund is being established for,” Moses said. Among the many partners and advisors are Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and BMR Energy, both partners of Virgin Unite. Working with partners and regional institutions, they are identifying gaps in the project and attempting to close them with this blended financial mechanism.

It is essential that resilient, renewable projects be backed by region-wide collaboration and the organisation of capital. By maximizing renewable energy, the region will be in a stronger position to achieve its collective ambitions and make an outsized contribution to the global goals.

The Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator launched in 2018 and is committed to making the Caribbean the world's first climate-smart zone. Virgin Unite and Richard Branson are part of the coalition of leaders who incubated the accelerator.