News Release: U.S. Virgin Islands Makes Aggressive Energy Pledge at NREL

March 1, 2010 | Contact media relations

The U.S. Virgin Islands can reduce its reliance on  fossil fuels by 60% within the next 15 years by developing its abundant renewable energy resources, Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. announced at a workshop at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In his NREL visit, Gov. de Jongh and a delegation of 25 stakeholders from the islands' public and private sectors heard presentations by Department of Energy (DOE) and NREL experts on renewable energy technologies, integration and transmission of electricity from renewable energy systems, policy and market analysis and project development and finance. The delegation also met with officials from Hawaii, Alaska and other locations that are embarking on similarly aggressive renewable energy strategies.

During the three-day workshop, Gov. de Jongh signed a memorandum of understanding between the USVI and federal agencies to develop a clean energy development strategy.

He signed the agreement with Joe Garcia, Director of the DOE Office of Minority Economic Impact and Anthony M. Babauta, Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior.

The agreement calls for NREL and federal agencies to work with the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish an aggressive renewable energy deployment strategy for the islands that includes transportation, electricity generation and transmission, energy efficiency, and tourism and industry. The agreement also calls for a communications and public education campaign.

The MOU is an important step in the islands' efforts to transform its energy system and  create green jobs while enhancing the islands' energy security and reducing carbon emissions associated with global warming.

In April 2009, the International Partnership for Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) selected the U.S. Virgin Islands as one of its three pilot projects.

"There is no reason why the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot be the regional leader in the deployment of clean energy," Gov. de Jongh said. "I hope this partnership with the Energy and Interior Departments and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory creates a synergy that will help us develop our own renewable energy resources."

 "We want to be able to showcase places like the U.S. Virgin Islands, where energy costs are so high, as leaders in implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions" said NREL senior vice president of commercialization and deployment Casey Porto, who opened the NREL workshop.

"The EDIN project will create models that can be replicated elsewhere, putting into play the right mix of renewable energy resources and energy efficiency practices in order to leverage the greatest reduction on fossil fuel dependence" Porto said.

Assistant Interior Secretary Babauta remarked that the joint agreement reflects the call for innovative collaboration that President Obama has been advocating for the the deployment of renewable energy and green jobs accros the nation.  "Secretary Salazar has made the advancement of energy security a DOI priority and I am leading the effort for the Insular Areas," he said.

"A green, energy efficient Caribbean is the first step in the fight against global warming. Nowhere is the stark reality of rising sea levels more palpable than on islands," said Joe Garcia, Director of the Department of Energy's Office of Economic Impact. "The EDIN project will ebb the tide of rising sea levels and lower the cost of energy in island nations. It will also usher in an era of greater collaboration and energy security in the Americas."

Currently, the U.S. Virgin Islands rely entirely on fossil fuels to meet their energy demands. Not only do the islands have among the highest energy prices in the U.S., their economy is especially vulnerable to supply disruptions and price fluctuations. At the same time, the islands have abundant natural resources, including solar and wind. With the right financial and regulatory systems, the U.S. Virgin Islands could be a model for renewable energy development – especially for other island nations and territories.

In 2009, the U.S. Virgin Islands Energy Office received $17.8 million in funding from the Department of Energy under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The funding supports a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including improvements to the islands' power transmission and distribution system, a renewable landfill-gas-to-energy treatment system, and a 350 kilowatt solar photovoltaic panel system to supplement power for the government-operated airport on the island of St. Thomas.

ARRA funding also is supporting an expansion of the islands' Energy Star Rebate program, which provides incentives for consumers to purchase energy-efficient products, education programs and a financial incentive program for residents to encourage the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.