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Caribbean Utilities Company Models Responsible Environmental Stewardship

A tree with Christmas Lights at dusk on Seven Seas Beach in Grand Cayman

Being an energy producer and provider for the population of a small island, like the Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), comes with its own set of unique challenges. CUC, a trusted Echo360 partner since 2019, provides the majority of Grand Cayman’s energy, the largest of three islands that collectively compose the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea. The Caymans are just south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. Many of the challenges CUC face stem from its geography.

Being a nation with limited natural resources, you’re dependent on imports, like diesel, to meet many consumer demands in an already intense environment. Your service area is modest in size but unprotected from ferociously strong winds driven by severe tropical storms and hurricanes. Such storms, whose frequency of occurrence and intensities have been increasing at an accelerating rate, can erase your infrastructure and have the potential to disrupt service for weeks to months. How do you plan to be resilient through all the hardships that might lie ahead?

Perhaps in anticipation of having to answer that question when asked by customers who depend on reliable electricity to carry on with the vital works of living, the CUC has been proactively working with a range of partners on solutions to their geographically unique problems. CUC’s partners come from inside and outside the islands’ government, and all share the goal of getting their home ready for a changing global land- and seascape.

To start acting on that goal, the CUC released its first sustainability report in 2022 documenting actions it took for the good of their local communities and the global climate. The report highlights the CUC’s impressive list of annual achievements and priorities across 15 different Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors, like grid resiliency, community relations, and business ethics. Now you may be thinking, how can we believe anything in a sustainability report from an energy provider whose primary means of production are diesel generators? It is a valid question, and one that can be answered in two ways.

First, we must acknowledge that executives of energy providers in emerging economies are rather dependent on the market-ready technologies available from developed economies, regardless of their desire to use more sustainable technologies. That is to say, the West uses diesel generators, so the Cayman Islands use diesel generators. Second, we must contextualize the scale of impact an emerging economy energy provider can have on the global climate compared to those in developed economies. Compared to the smallest and most historically climate-minded energy provider in the U.S., Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), CUC emitted just less than 20% of PG&E’s 2022 CO2 tonnage at 449,587 versus nearly 2.3 million tons.

Context sought, we can now more accurately evaluate how the CUC conducts its business to gauge the authenticity of their public intent and actions to operate evermore sustainably and in compliance with international standards. Though still dependent on diesel as a primary fuel source, CUC’s sustainability report details how they’ve implemented the latest and most efficient generation system and delivery infrastructure, while they continue to integrate renewable infrastructure as it becomes available. The CUC published their Integrated Resource Plan in 2017, which details exactly how they plan to integrate renewables and a cornerstone to the work CUC started in 2009 with the introduction of their Consumer Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) tariff.

The CORE tariff responded to changes in their customer’s attitudes towards things like home solar and allowed interested partners to connect their green generation system to CUC’s grid in exchange for reduced monthly energy bills. Similar contracts have been implemented in other countries, like Utility Green Tariffs in the United States. Since CORE’s successful introduction, CUC has begun several impactful programs to expand their renewables portfolio, including a 5-Megawatt solar farm.

The outlook for CUC is green and clean, with a goal of providing 70 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2037 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent by 2030. Given the gamut of climate work they’ve been voluntarily pursuing for over a decade, and the transparency with which they conduct themselves, making relevant data freely available to the public, the Caribbean Utilities Company stands out as a role model of environmental stewardship and community partnership. It’s for reasons like these that Echo360 choses to partner with some of the most mission-driven, value-aligned, and positively impactful organizations around the world, just like CUC.