EDITORIAL: Think big to achieve big

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It is easy to cheer whenever we hear the words “renewable energy” positively associated with our bit of paradise, Antigua and Barbuda. Any regular reader will know that renewable energy holds great interest for us because we believe that it is an integral part of our future. For this piece, we will be selfish and talk about Antigua and Barbuda. But really, when we say the words, “our future,” we mean planet earth.
So what has us so cheery? Well, it is the news that Antigua and Barbuda is among several countries to benefit from a U.S. $50 million renewable energy fund provided by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We join the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the lucky few to benefit from this imitative.
At this point, you may be yawning and asking, so what? What is so special about a few more black solar panels on rooftops? To begin, the fund is designed to support “transformative solar and geothermal projects” and will apparently pioneer the latest battery storage technologies. The goal is to help reduce energy costs in the region and improve resilience to natural disasters. So it goes way beyond solar panels on roofs. (We hope!)
We are particularly interested by the fact that the UAE is the lead on this initiative, not because they have lots of money (well, not only because of that), but because the UAE is home to the very impressive Sustainable City in Dubai, a city that, according to the director of The Sustainable City Innovation Centre, Karim El-Jisr, has a goal of having a net zero energy development. Believe us when we say, It is worth your time to look it up.
Some quick facts about this award winning city. It occupies 46 hectacres, has 10,000 trees and 2,700 residents. It is to produce 10 mega watts of energy from solar and has no net service and maintenance fees. It recycles its water and waste, and it produces more energy than it consumes.  
We know, you probably think that your brain is glitching, and you are peering out your window to see if camels are flying because the concepts of “sustainable” and “Dubai” seem as unlikely a pairing of words as the concept of an indoor ski resort in the middle of the desert. But since Dubai boasts of one of those, sustainable Dubai seems achievable.
We like that the Dubai government is determined to transform the city from being a community with one of the largest ecological footprints in the world, and a poster child for decadent living, to a model community that will transform into having one of the smallest footprints by 2050. That is an aggressive and impressive goal.
Antigua and Barbuda needs to have similar goals. We need to have a master plan that develops a sustainable model, especially as it comes to energy production, and a reduction to our reliance on imported petroleum products. Not only will it benefit each and every citizen and resident, it will demonstrate our commitment to a better tomorrow for all who live on this planet. We should be the model that everyone desires to follow.
To achieve this master plan, we must also have a plan for our utility company, APUA. As the country transforms, so must APUA. The policies and protectionist perspectives cannot be myopic and anchored in the past. Barriers that have been erected to slow the adoption of renewable energy, such as the current interconnect policy, must be dismantled. APUA needs to establish itself as a leader in this revolution and must start to think about how it can put itself out of the business of power production (especially utilising methods that burn fossil fuels).
APUA needs to see itself in a new role as energy production becomes democratised. The company is there to serve the nation, not to profit off of the heads of our people. It needs to focus on areas that will complement the energy evolution that will come. Battery technologies and smart grids are just two of many areas that require APUA leadership.
While there is much to be done, the time is right. A door has been opened with the UAE, and we need to jump in. Let us use this opportunity to leapfrog through time. Let’s get ahead of the game. We need to think big and learn all that we can from the UAE and their Sustainable City, for we can become the sustainable country that the world envies.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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