Opinion: The Green GovernmentPOSTED: 02/6/14 1:49 PM
Last month, the CFT gave a press conference and basically said that when they approve the budget, the Government of St. Maarten can borrow from the World Bank to invest in St. Maarten. The CFT did not mention the interest rate but is important to note that St. Maarten will receive one of the lowest interest rates which are about 2.5% for a 20 year government bond due to the Netherlands economy. The CFT also stated that this investment should be strategic, in order to lower government expenditures or increase revenues.
The two suggestions given by the CFT were to finish the new Government Administration Building and invest in the expansion of St. Maarten Medical Center. These are two very good ideas because Government will spend less money renting buildings and have to send less people abroad for medical care.
However, my proposal is a bit different, in addition to investing in infrastructure why not improve current infrastructure?
St. Maarten is sunny all year round and solar panel prices have seen a sharp decrease in recent years. Why not invest in solar energy? By investing in solar panels government would be setting a good example for its citizens and the private sector, reduce its carbon footprint, reduce their operational costs on a long term basis, and provide jobs to locals on a contractual basis to install and maintain this investment.
The roofs of several government buildings, schools, and government owned companies can be retrofitted with solar panels. For example, the Princess Juliana Airport has a very large roof that can be retrofitted with many solar panels. Some can even be added in the grass along the runway, similar to how it was done in St. Thomas. Already the Philipsburg Jubilee Library has seen their electricity bill per month reduced by more than 1/3 since they installed solar panels last year.
Last year, a few politicians were talking about how much LED lights would save the government in electricity costs for street lights. Why not have solar powered street lights that have no electricity costs? The bulk of money goes into buying and installing them but after that it’s just yearly maintenance. GEBE also stands to benefit from government using solar panels because some of the burden will be alleviated from GEBE as the sole electricity provider on the Dutch side.
I know at the end of the day those of you reading this might think it’s expensive but the price of installing has decreased sharply in recent years and it’s nothing compared to the savings. Everyone can benefit from installing solar panels not just government. If every household took advantage of solar panels, people would spend less money on electricity and have more for other expenses. Take a look at your light bill and imagine if it was 40% lower every month, imagine the annual savings. Imagine the annual electricity cost for government and imagine if 40% of that cost was gone. I believe that in less than 5 years government could see a return on investment (ROI) if they invest in solar energy. After all, it’s just a matter of improving current infrastructure.