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The Eastern Caribbean—comprising Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—has taken a beating during the COVID-19 pandemic. The region’s struggles are primarily due to a precipitous drop in tourism revenues, which account for as much as 73% of gross domestic product (GDP) in some countries, resulting in a 16.25% contraction in GDP in 2020. This is added to their extreme vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, as seen in Tropical Storm Erika in 2015, Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the eruption of and subsequent ash fall from the La Soufriere volcano in 2020-2021 – each of which caused damages that amounted to a substantial portion of the region’s GDP and further harmed its tourism sector.

But diversification away from tourism is a challenge in large part due to high electricity prices which, combined with these countries’ small-scale economies, limit their competitiveness in other industries.

Done right, transitioning to renewable energy could significantly reduce the region’s cost of electricity. More distributed power generation would also support climate resilience, an imperative that is all too important for these islands. And, in some of these countries, limiting dependence on imported fuels would be beneficial in reducing mounting national budget deficits. Additionally, if developed strategically, the renewables sector could create valuable employment in a region which has struggled to provide technologically-minded and ambitious young people with attractive job opportunities.

However, to boost their renewable energy-based power generation and reap the associated benefits, Eastern Caribbean nations must overcome several obstacles. This article explores why it makes sense for the region to shift to renewables, and presents three success factors for achieving the transition – insights that could also be applicable to other island nations.

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