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EDITORIAL: Switching to alternative energy

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Switching to alternative energy

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Things are beginning to look very interesting in the alternative energy sector in Barbados. In recent months we have witnessed an intensification of practical involvement and investment, from both the public and private sectors. There is now better appreciation that we can generate more of our power needs using solar and wind energy.
Last week Government took another positive step when it launched the wind energy project at Chance Hall, St Lucy, under the aegis of the Ministry of Transport and Works. This is the second major initiative in this area from under the leadership of Minister John Boyce. Despite tough economic times, he has recognized the importance of switching from carbon-based energy products.    
The new system being used at Chance Hall means that the residents in the surrounding districts do not suffer the kind of noise pollution and general discomfort suffered by those within a previous project at Lamberts in the same parish. We hardly expect community outcry on this occasion.
The stepped-up investment in the alternative energy sector is good news, and even though the outlay may be high initially, we expect that the returns will benefit us economically and environmentally in the long term.
There is no gainsaying that the alternative energy industry is one with great potential for job creation. But success will depend heavily on government to push it ahead.
All this is very good news. But as a nation we are still far behind other countries, some in Europe and certainly China, which are investing heavily in the solar and wind power industry. We need to have things happening, and quickly, not merely in terms of catching up with those investing heavily in their quest to use renewable energy but, in our case, to cut back on and eventually save foreign exchange.
In order to be successful our financing institutions must get on board and support the thrust towards enhanced use of alternative energy. In much the same way we have recorded a relatively high penetration rate with solar water heaters, we now need to make that switch to generating electricity, either by solar or wind. Despite Government’s incentives and the eagerness of the developers and entrepreneurs in the alternative energy industry, financing is key to success.
In the meantime, it is back to Government. It must show the naysayers that this new thrust is realistic and sustainable. We must not say it cannot be done. Not only the Ministry of Transport and Works but other ministries must get on board in the switch to clean energy. Our educational institutions, hospitals, large office complexes and even the Transport Board all need to make that change. We expect the private sector will follow.