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30 October 2017

Richard Branson leads green energy plan to rebuild the post-hurricane Caribbean

The multi-billionaire founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson aims to lead the post-hurricane rebuilding effort in the Caribbean islands, possibly including debt relief negotiation efforts led by the International Monetary Fund.

The focal point of the recovery plan is to trigger the replacement of outdated fossil-fuel power grids with new renewable energy-based energy systems that will have the ability to endure extreme weather conditions and boost economic development in the region.

According to an interview with Reuters in Miami, Richard Branson has met with multiple of the world’s top multilateral lenders and foundations in order to set up a fund for what he called the “Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan”.

Richard Branson said: “We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier”.

He added: “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea”.

The initiative aims to provide immediate and long-term relief assistance, also establishing robust insurance policies against natural disasters.

Branson revealed that when he met up with Christine Lagarde, IMF chief, earlier this month, she was willing to offer help through facilitating meetings between the Caribbean nations and creditors to discuss debt relief options.

“We will talk to the Caribbean heads of state and see if they would be interested in that- it could save them a lot of money”.

Gerry Rice, IMF Director of Communications, affirmed to Reuters that IMF is “closely engaged with the authorities in the Caribbean, and is exploring ways in which it can help member countries affected by the hurricanes, including the provision of financing through rapid credit facilities”.

The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have already agreed to participate in the Caribbean recovery efforts.

More specifically, Branson said that World Bank is working towards lowering borrowing costs to help the Caribbean islands implement more projects.

Richard Branson acquired the wind energy projects developer BMR Energy in 2016, which operates in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Bruce Levy, BMR Energy’s CEO said that the company’s main project in Jamaica, - a 16MW wind power plant, has set a very good example of how renewables could serve the islands at a competitive price.

He also revealed that the idea of replacing the existing grids in the Caribbean has gained momentum in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The non-interconnected islands have for years been relying heavily on imported fossil fuels, which have been particularly expensive to transfer.

Bruce Levy also underlined the security that micro-grids offer with regards to extreme weather conditions, as he witnessed himself how the solar-powered micro-grid on Necker island survived Irma.

He said: “Our solar panels were built so well that they were back up and running 24 hours after the hurricane”. 

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