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LEFT OF CENTRE – National security at issue

Mark Hill

LEFT OF CENTRE – National security at issue

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RENEWABLE ENERGY is more about national security for small island states than it is about big business. 
Have you ever wondered what would happen if Barbados runs out of foreign reserves and we could not purchase fossil fuel? What would life in Barbados be like?
My view is that we need to plan for this scenario and begin to carry out national drills on a worst case scenario, the same way we plan for a hurricane, tsunami or any other natural disaster.
We need to put energy-contingency measures in place for any possible disruption in our national energy supplies, for whatever reason. For us to achieve this, energy innovation will have to be at the forefront of our national security planning.
Global economies are so volatile and venerable, any stress could plunge Barbados into a severe crisis – for example, what if our dollar was devalued? How do we adjust?
While our politicians are trying their best to avert these scenarios, we need to plan for the possibility that the worst can happen. If we fail to plan for it, we are already planning to fail.
Renewable energy rhetoric and restructuring the economy around renewable requires a comprehensive, transformation paradigm shift – what if Barbadians are not prepared to change? 
Great, we have 16 weeks’ foreign reserves but what happens in week 17? What will be the fall-back plan for business, families and the community as a whole? Would an energy-efficient bus service kick in so that people can still get to work and children get to school, leaving our gas guzzlers at home?
How would our police service function without fossil fuel, if we had no gas at the pumps? Will the Barbados Water Authority still be able to deliver that critical, most important resource in Barbados?
Without electricity from the grid, can we still pump even if the pressure is lower to households so that people can cook and have drinking water? We had a little taste of such a disruption when Tropical Storm Tomas passed this time last year. With the second global economic cyclone in less than two years heading our way, can we rapidly rethink our energy plan with national security as the principal driver?
It will mean that we cannot think of running a single pipeline of natural gas to serve this country from another state that has the capacity to lay siege to Barbados, or a pipeline and boat line that could come under pressure by terrorism or war. How would Barbados function?
These are some of the important reflections we need to entertain if we are going to take renewable seriously and make it affordable.
As we approach a year marking the death of the late Prime Minister David Thompson, Barbados as a country must “hope for the best and plan for the worst”.
 At the heart of planning for the worst, the key driver must be to make renewable energy affordable so that the vulnerable in society have access.
At the root of our national risk-management strategy must be creating jobs, integrating renewable into agricultural production and our water distribution framework, and working on a well-balanced off-grid and grid-tied matrix.
This can only be achieved through localized energy innovations that address energy within the context of Barbados – a small island economy that exists on imports.
Carbon emissions is also a national security issue, as it causes global warming. It is important that we see economic development not only from the big business perspective but from the point of view of managing a household (oikonimia – the principles that govern the house), and recognize that security is the first order of a well-managed household – water security, food security, environmental security.
Government policy must look at energy not only from the economic perspective but as a small island developing state highly dependent on imported fossil fuel, it is imperative that the mindset of energy be based on national security.  
Mark Hill is an energy innovation consultant and chief innovation officer, Innogen Technologies.

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