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THE ISSUE – Getting over fear, going green


Natasha Beckles

THE ISSUE – Getting over fear, going green

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THE ISSUE: Why must alternate energy be a priority on our agenda?

As Barbados’ economy continues to be severely affected by high oil prices, the call for the increased use of alternative energy is becoming louder.
In his August 16, 2011 Budget, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler noted that the average price of crude oil on the international market for this year was $95 a barrel.
With analysts projecting that the price would continue to remain at this level for the duration of the summer, Sinckler noted that the days of low oil prices were over.
“The domestic demand for oil is about 10 000 barrels per day. Since we produce less than 1 000 barrels per day, we must import more than 9 000 barrels of oil per day. The cost of the oil imports for 2009 was US$233.51 million representing six per cent of GDP, a level comparable to Government expenditure on education,” he said.
The Minister noted that the importation of petroleum products represented a significant expenditure and drain on Barbados’ foreign exchange reserves with a significant negative impact on direct production costs and therefore on the competitiveness of the economy.
Sinckler therefore announced that Government was seeking to implement a paradigm shift in the move to renewable energy and energy efficiency within the context of the establishment of a green economy. 
He said draft renewable energy and energy efficiency policies would be submitted to the Cabinet along with proposals for the amendment of the relevant legislation. 
“It is the Government’s intention to have draft legislation in respect of the renewable energy policy within the next few months to facilitate the generation of electricity by renewable energy systems and the sale of electricity to the grid,” he said.
Sinckler noted that “this comprehensive programme will create an institutional, policy and operational framework that will set the appropriate incentives to generate substantial energy savings, reduce the cost of electricity to households and businesses and contribute to a reduction of oil imports and hence liberate funds for other purposes”. 
It was projected that Barbados would be able to reduce oil imports’ cumulative costs over the next 20 years from US$2.648 billion to US$1.978 billion.
In the September 14, 2011 MIDWEEK NATION it was announced that within the next three months, home and business owners would be able to benefit from several incentives designed to encourage alternative energy and energy efficiency.
This was as a result of an $18 million Smart Fund financed by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and managed by the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL).
Chief executive officer of the EGFL Timothy Simmons said the Fund had five components.
“One deals with technical assistance grants to fund energy audits and pre-feasibility studies for businesses that want to implement alternative energy and energy efficient solutions.
“Before a business can present a proposal for funding we would do the pre-feasibility study which can involve an audit that would provide the business with a roadmap of the things that you would need to do to improve your energy efficiency.
“Having done that then the business is now in a position to use that pre-feasibility study to present it to us for funding to actually buy the various pieces of equipment,” he said.
The second component is a “consumer finance facility or pilot hire purchase facility” through which EGFL will be working with appliance retailers to encourage Barbadians to purchase energy efficient appliances. EGFL will then provide rebates to such customers.
Simmons added that a rebate programme would also be made available to encourage both households and businesses to replace their older air-conditioning units with new energy-efficient ones.
“Each household will be allowed rebates on a maximum of two air conditioners and businesses will be allowed rebates on a maximum of five. The rebates will be 50 per cent of the acquisition cost of the new energy efficient air conditioner up to a maximum of $2 000 per AC unit,” the CEO said.
EGFL will also invest up to $1 million in the acquisition of compact fluorescent bulbs to be given away to households.
“We’ll mail out vouchers to households who currently have electricity supplies and they will return that voucher to a participating retail . . . partner who would redeem the voucher for five compact fluorescents.     
The retailer over time would submit the vouchers to us and we’ll reimburse them,” he said.
The final aspect of the fund is a loan financing facility where EGFL will be providing low interest loans to businesses to retrofit their operations for greater energy efficiency.
The overall project aims to reduce Barbados’ fossil fuel dependency and promote sustainable energy while reducing C02 emissions. By 2014, the Smart Fund intends to finance the installation of at least 1 000 kilowatts of renewable energy (RE) generation capacity and produce savings equivalent to at least 500 megawatt hours per year through efficiency measures.
The success of these measures will depend on how willing businesses and households are to change their practices.
Notably, in the July 24, 2010 SUN ON SATURDAY Minister of the Environment Dr Denis Lowe noted that if Barbados were to become a green economy, it had to first overcome the fear of change.
He said there was resistance to change in both the private and public sector.
“Government’s recent efforts to pursue a green economy have come with all sorts of growing pains. [It involves] a shift in thinking and in how we do business, and there are some risks people are unwilling to take,” he said.
Lowe said Barbados had a “scared population” where wind turbines were concerned and it was not simply a matter of Government being unwilling. However, he admitted there was some reluctance within the public sector.
“Before we can convince the population, first Government has to convince itself,” he said, adding that some Government buildings were all but uninhabitable and did not even have a potted plant inside.
 

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