MP Joey Hew – Deputy Opposition Leader, speaks on the CHEER Programme

July 20, 2023by editor

 July 20th, 2023


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Fellow Caymanians and Residents.


Many of you know I have a backyard farm at home and grow as much of my family’s food as possible. I firmly believe in sustainable living and, along with my colleagues in the Progressives, am committed to a more sustainable and resilient energy future for our Islands.


That is why the 2021 Progressives’ election manifesto highlighted the need for the country to seek new approaches to support energy conservation in the commercial and domestic sectors. Including providing grants and incentives for retrofitting existing buildings and establishing suitable code improvements for new buildings.


We understood that Government would have to assist many of those needing help to transition to more energy-efficient homes. Although such initiatives offer savings in the longer term, the up-front cost of making the necessary changes can be too high for many on low incomes who most need the help.


We also sought to accelerate Cayman’s transition to sustainable energy, including solar, with Government taking the lead and working with Caymanian private sector experts and technical experts from the UK to consider all viable options.


Our desire to save energy and money for our citizens is why we championed that homes built by the National Housing Development Trust should incorporate adequate insulation and solar energy for electricity generation. We also promoted the incorporation of solar into new development projects and houses.


Against that backdrop, The Progressives welcome the Cayman Home Energy Efficiency Retrofits Programme launch, also known as the CHEER programme.


The CHEER programme concept is a good start.


The CHEER programme aims to implement energy initiatives for Caymanians on lower incomes and living in smaller homes. The programme will provide energy savings for a relatively small number of lower-income families facing high monthly utility bills. Priority consideration will be given to the elderly, families with children, and persons with diagnosed health conditions.


To be eligible for the programme, applicants should satisfy the following:

  • You must be a Caymanian homeowner living in your home.
  • Your total household income can be no more than CI$4,000 per month;
  • Your home is no larger than 2,5 0 0 square feet; and,
  • Your monthly energy consumption is 2, 0 0 0 kilowatt hours or more.


The Government’s press release notes that “in this initial phase of the project, the Ministry has allocated $ 5 0 0,0 0 0 towards energy efficiency retrofits. Once this funding is used up, the Ministry will evaluate the programme implementation and consider opportunities for extending the initiative, subject to the approval of additional funding.”


While I welcome this initiative, there are several shortcomings with the Government’s approach. For example, by needing to prove a relatively high level of existing consumption, the Government is excluding families, especially those on low incomes, who are already taking measures such as reducing AC consumption because of the cost-of-living crisis – yet these could be some who need the most help.


Whilst it has taken the Government with a sustainability ministry two years to introduce a programme that the Progressives had already championed at the election, I am happy to recognise that the CHEER programme is a start.


Other options could include government-guaranteed loans arranged with local banks to assist in retrofitting personal homes and even rental units with solar panels and updated insulation. The goal is to save families money while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. The savings on energy would help the borrower to repay the loan.


I look forward to the promised evaluation of the programme once the current funds are used up. Of course, the evaluation will allow the programme to be improved so that we can consider, as the press release notes, how best it can be extended to a broader cross-section of the community. That is where the real benefit will come – not just for individuals but also for businesses providing the retrofits and other services.
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