Nassau, Bahamas, December 19, 2016 – From the smallest detail like banning Styrofoam containers on a construction site at a planned Exuma luxury resort to powering an electric vehicle via a solar power charging station, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation recent energy conference served up a harvest of innovative solutions to the problems of how to provide consistent, reliable power in a modern world.
“These are very challenging times for the energy sector,” said Chamber CEO Edison Sumner. “We must find ways to reduce our reliance on traditional forms of energy.”
That reliance – along with a dependence on government in order to get anything done – has resulted, said Sumner in a situation where electrical output, particularly in New Providence, is still dependent upon fossil fuels and an antiquated power generation system that is costly, challenging to maintain and unhealthy for the environment.
“For a very long time we have been ignoring our own welfare,” said Sumner, addressing business and civic leaders at the Chamber’s third annual energy security conference, hosted in conjunction with the American Embassy with patron sponsor Commonwealth Bank and held at the British Colonial Hilton December 13. “We want to determine the future of the country when it comes to the energy sector and the impact the cost and quality of energy has on business and on our lives in general.” Looking to the future, speaker after speaker recounted the need to act responsibly but independently.
It was the willingness to find their own vision and make it reality that led Shaun Ingraham and the One Eleuthera Foundation to purchase a rundown closed hotel and transform it into a training centre that has since been internationally accredited. Sixty adult students have graduated with technical and vocational skills and certification.
“With 70% unemployment in Eleuthera, we needed to find ways to stimulate the economy,” said Ingraham. “We got a license and created a credit bureau. We partnered with five primary schools including The Island School which is totally off the grid. We got access to the 1.5 tons of trash the schools created and began recycling. We started to crush the glass and turn it into countertops, floors, pavements. The cans went to Nassau for Cans for Kids. The plastic we shipped back to Nassau.”
In eight years, One Eleuthera Foundation has pumped $20 million into the local economy – and done so with a shared vision, equipping dozens with badly-needed skills, providing green jobs and operating with a mission to be economically viable and environmentally friendly.
Radiologist Larry Carroll, MD, discovered how important it was to operate without waiting for government to move forward so long as you were within the law. He did it first in organizing a group of doctors to operate a private hospital, Doctors Hospital, and more recently as he neared retirement, in building a seven room resort in Schooner Bay, Abaco.
“The vision for Schooner Bay presented to me was to have a green, sustainable village based on old village models of years ago,” said Carroll. “The village concept was built around the harbour. Developers preserved the natural flora and fauna, provided geothermal heating and cooling. They built the land up so if there were a storm surge, the run-off would flow into the wetlands. We recycle all our gray matter, maintain the indigenous vegetation.” All utilities are underground. Nine foot ceilings allow heat to rise, reducing the need for air conditioning. Positioning of the residences also allows for best breeze flow.
Now, Dr. Carroll is trying to unite the Schooner Bay community to tackle the difficulty with energy. “We have an hour power cut every day. If we can de-politicize our thinking and our discussions and get together, we could put in a solar mini-grid in Cherokee Sound and sustain that community and Schooner Bay and we would not have to wait for anyone else. We are too dependent on government and we need to just unite and do it ourselves.”
If Family Islands are drawing the blueprints for the energy sector, one of the most interesting is the model that will be set when construction starts on Children’s Bay Cay and Williams Cay in the Exumas. According to Project Director Michel Neutelings, every aspect of design, engineering and operations is being created to utilize the latest technology to provide the most sustainable development.
“The waters of the Exumas are among the most pristine in the world so we have to strike a very careful balance, taking into account the dire need for economic development, sustainability of the environment and wishes of the community,” said Neutelings. “We will meet with every environmental group and will listen to the community before we put a shovel in the ground.” And when construction starts, there will be a ban on Styrofoam.
The energy conference under the theme Eyes Wide Shut drew nearly 100 persons with the Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis addressing the luncheon and advising that the new energy regime would allow power generation including solar to tie into the grid as early as the end of January.
Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge
By Shaniek Smith
#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.
It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.
In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced. Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations. The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.
The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season. The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.
In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.
The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI. It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.
“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.
Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.
Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.
Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.
“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.
Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.
He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.
“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.
Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.
Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.
Over 5000 COVID cases on Cruises, CDC investigations launched
By Dana Malcolm
#January 15, 2022 – Cruises have continued across the Americas despite the US Centers for Disease Control dire warning that even vaccinated individuals should be wary of them. Now the CDC informs that Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.
According to the CDC, all 92 ships with passengers have met the threshold for investigation by the public health agency. In every case, the CDC has either started an investigation or has investigated.
The CDC warned travellers including those who are vaccinated to avoid cruising in December, following the announcement videos surfaced of jam-packed cruise ships with unmasked passengers ringing in the New Year.
Meanwhile, Grand Turk is still welcoming cruise ships. Eleven cruise ships are scheduled to dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center throughout January, according to the port schedule.
Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health has confirmed that ships have been allowed to dock in Grand Turk with positive COVID cases on board.
He said. “Now in each ship there are stations or places for isolation on board…Just because a vessel has people with Covid-19 on it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t allow them to disembark.”
The minister explained the number of positive cases recorded on cruise ships that had arrived in Grand Turk was .001 per cent of all guests and they were not allowed to disembark.
So far, Turks and Caicos has turned away at least one cruise liner due to fears of COVID exposure in the capital, which has gone from a handful of active cases to now 111, as of January 14.
The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases on cruise ships have increased to 30 times what they were in mid-December.
New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”
By Shanieka Smith
#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.
Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week. Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.
New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers. The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.
Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27. However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.
New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.
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