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Two federal agencies join V.I. in renewable energy project

Feb 22, 2010 - Constance Cooper - The Virgin Island Daily News

The Virgin Islands and U.S. departments of Energy and Interior have entered into an agreement to move the territory away from its dependence on fossil fuels.

In April, the Virgin Islands was chosen as one of three pilot projects for Energy Development in Island Nations -- an international partnership with the goal of bringing renewable energy to islands around the world.

"Across the globe, islands have the same problems -- very expensive electricity costs because infrastructure is based on oil," said Adam Warren, who is heading up the V.I. pilot project for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the branch of the U.S. Energy Department overseeing the program. "On the other side have pretty good access to renewable energy, whether geothermal, wind or solar."

Three countries came together for the partnership -- the U.S., New Zealand and Iceland. And each chose one pilot location for a renewable energy system that can be replicated on other islands. The Virgin Islands volunteered to be the United States' pilot.

Gov. John deJongh Jr., U.S. Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Anthony Babuta and Joe Garcia, director of the department of energy's office of economic impact, recently signed a memorandum of understanding setting out what each party's role will be in achieving a goal of having 60 percent of the territory's energy come from renewable resources by 2025.

The memorandum's purpose is to "establish a long-term partnership" among the Virgin Islands, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior "that will result in a fundamental and sustained transformation in the way in which renewable energy and energy efficiency resources are planned and used in the territory."

The memorandum lists three key goals for the partnership: stabilizing energy prices, protecting the environment and creating green jobs.

Although the document is not legally binding, it lays out the responsibilities each of the three parties has in working toward those goals.

The agreement gives the Virgin Islands better access to the resources of the Interior and Energy departments in working toward energy efficiency goals, deJongh said in a statement.

"What this does is it gives us the opportunity to get the resources of the Department of Energy and build on the historic relationship we have with the Interior to be able to move forward on our clean energy strategy," he said.

- Contact reporter Constance Cooper at 774-9882 ext. 364 or e-mail ccooper@dailynews.vi.