Published On: Fri, Jun 14th, 2024

Seizing the Green Energy Opportunity for St. Maarten

Letter to the Editor by Tadzio Bervoets

As St. Maarten grapples with an ongoing power crisis, the call for robust solutions has never been more urgent. Recent discussions by our Prime Minister about reaching out to the World Bank and the Dutch government for financial assistance underscore the critical need for substantial investment in our energy infrastructure. This juncture presents a golden opportunity to pivot towards sustainable energy solutions, rather than pouring funds into antiquated, polluting technologies that the world is steadily moving away from.

In the short term, we must unfortunately rely on the same outdated, fossil fuel-dependent technology to meet our immediate energy demands. However, it is clear that this is only a stopgap measure. The current crisis highlights the urgency and necessity of transitioning towards green energy for the long-term benefit of St. Maarten. Investing in sustainable energy now is not just a forward-thinking approach—it is in fact a necessity. As the global community accelerates its shift away from fossil fuels, St. Maarten must align itself with this trajectory to ensure long-term energy security and economic stability. The reluctance to consider green energy investments as a viable option is both surprising and short-sighted. Numerous small island states similar to ours have successfully transitioned to renewable energy sources, with some achieving more than 50% of their power from green energy.

There are also a wealth of financial mechanisms available to support our transition to a sustainable energy future, we just need to have the expertise and vision in order to navigate this path. Green and blue bonds, the Green Climate Fund, and major lenders with corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies favoring green energy investments are all potential sources of funding. The European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and various other international financial institutions and Multi-Lateral Development Banks are keen to support green energy projects, recognizing the dual benefits of environmental sustainability and economic resilience.

Moreover, innovative debt repayment options such as debt-for-nature swaps, biodiversity offsetting mechanisms, and blue and green bonds present viable pathways to manage our financial obligations while investing in our future. These mechanisms not only provide the necessary capital but also ensure that our environmental and economic goals are aligned. Barbados especially is a shining example in the region on how these financial mechanisms are operationalized on a small island developing state, or large ocean state as I like to call it.

At this critical juncture in our National Development it is critical that the government of St. Maarten explores these possibilities and commits to creating the enabling environment and policy frameworks needed to make green energy a reality. This includes streamlined regulations, incentives for renewable energy investments, and robust support for research and development in sustainable technologies.

The time for action is now. We cannot afford to delay or divert resources into solutions that are becoming obsolete and environmentally damaging. Instead, we must harness this moment to steer St. Maarten towards a sustainable energy future, ensuring a resilient and prosperous island for generations to come.

The call to transition to green energy is not merely a lofty ideal; it is a practical and urgent necessity. Let us all join hands—government, private sector, and citizens—to embrace this challenge and turn it into an opportunity. St. Maarten has the potential to be a leader in sustainable energy development among small island states. Now is the time to make it happen.

Tadzio Bervoets
Caribbean Conservation Professional