Around the world, the Clinton Foundation works to promote clean energy projects in island nations.
These projects - power plants that harness the sun, wind, and heat from beneath the earth's surface to generate renewable energy - can be a significant boon to the communities where they exist, with cleaner air, lower cost to produce electricity, and more jobs in an emerging sector.
There is a good reason why our focus is specifically on island nations like Jamaica. As climate change threatens our ecosystems, causing more severe weather events and rising oceans, island nations will be the first to be impacted by the devastating effects.
In addition, with the high cost of importing and transporting fossil fuels, island nations are able to cut costs by switching to renewable energy.
That's why it's more critical than ever to invest in renewable energy projects that can reduce the cost of energy production and one of the reasons why ... the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) announced it would be investing US$100 million in energy facilities that can store the electricity generated by renewable plants.
One project getting off the ground in 2017 is the 37 MW Paradise Park Solar Farm in Westmoreland, being developed by Eight Rivers Energy Company. The site will provide electricity to Jamaica's national energy grid at a lower cost than fossil fuels, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 30,000 tonnes per year.
However, there are numerous logistical steps that must be taken to responsibly construct renewable energy plants like Paradise Park. Everything from obtaining government approval and preparing the land to ensuring sound financial backing and community awareness of the project are important actions that projects must get right.
As we've worked on renewable energy projects across the globe, including here in Jamaica, one of the most critical pieces to making sure that these projects can get off the ground is engagement by everyone in the community - from government officials, to energy companies developing the projects, civic leaders and people in the communities themselves.
The Paradise Park project has received great support from the parish council, helping it succeed.
As part of the project at Paradise Park, the Clinton Foundation is working in the community to make sure that people understand what a project like this means for their parish and country. This community engagement is critical to the long-term success of the project - and if done successfully, can pave the way for future clean energy endeavours.
This isn't the first time the Clinton Foundation has worked to provide support for renewable energy projects in Jamaica. We also helped facilitate the Wigton Windfarm Limited in Manchester, one of the largest wind power projects in the Caribbean.
There, the Clinton Foundation worked to provide support for the third and largest expansion of 24 megawatts, lowering carbon emissions by 34,000 tonnes per year.
The results are impressive, and making a positive difference in the life of all Jamaicans. Jamaica is now getting more clean electricity into the nation's power grid, and we see hope for more projects getting off the ground in Jamaica in the coming years, starting with the Paradise Park solar farm. This means lower energy costs and cleaner air for Jamaica.
Coordination - between leaders in the community, government officials, businesses, and the non-profit sector - is what it's going to take to make projects like the Paradise Park Solar Farm a reality.
The challenge of climate change is extraordinary, but working together, we can chart a future that is brighter, healthier, and more prosperous for everyone.
- Jesse Gerstin is the director of programs and policy at the Clinton Climate Initiative, part of the Clinton Foundation.