Last month, hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread destruction throughout the Caribbean. Having lived in the British Virgin Islands for over a decade, experiencing the storms firsthand from a cellar on his private island, philanthropist Richard Branson has committed to playing a major role in efforts to rebuild.
Branson is currently assembling a team to work on a project he's calling the Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan. The name is a nod to the original Marshall Plan, a program run by the United States that helped countries in western Europe recover in the aftermath of World War II.
The plan will outline a method for improving infrastructure across the Caribbean, which presently has outdated power grids that rely on fossil fuel. Branson's plan would see these replaced by improved modern versions that make use of renewable sources of energy.
“We want to move the Caribbean countries into clean energy and make them more sustainable, which will make dealing with hurricanes much easier," Branson told Reuters. “The Caribbean Heads of State agree with one voice that this is a good idea."
Another storm could hit the areas affected by the recent hurricanes at any time, so repairs need to be swift and sturdy enough to withstand that possible scenario. The new grid will be designed with resistance to the effects of extreme weather in mind.
The Green Grid
In the wake of Hurricane Maria's impact on Puerto Rico, Elon Musk embarked upon a very public attempt to secure a contract to allow Tesla to rebuild the country's power grid. The job eventually went to Whitefish, but the situation served to illustrate how attractive this kind of work is for energy specialists.
Tesla wanted to use the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to demonstrate the strength of its Powerpack battery system. A successful implementation at a time when all eyes are on relief efforts could help foster usage of the technology in other parts of the world.
Branson may have a similar strategy in mind when it comes to the Disaster Recovery Marshall Plan. In 2016, Virgin acquired BMR Energy, a company that develops wind energy projects across the Caribbean and Latin America.
In 2017, we've seen hurricanes have caused a devastating amount of destruction across the Caribbean. It's crucial that the rebuilding process gets underway as quickly as possible to help the people that were affected return to normalcy. That said, it's just as important that these efforts produce a power grid that won't be destroyed by the next round of extreme storms.