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ON REFLECTION: Shameful energy stand by BL&P

Ricky Jordan

ON REFLECTION: Shameful energy stand by BL&P

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TRULY GLAD WAS I to see that the local renewable energy producers have formed themselves into a body to speak with one voice instead of Barbadians hearing a confused cacophony of those discussing the subject.
Before I go any further, though, let me state that I like to see progress in Barbados while a powerful minority in this country prefer monopolies mainly because it suits their narrow interests.
An energy supply monopoly no longer suits Barbados since it will eventually stall growth in the major sectors of manufacturing and tourism because of ever-increasing, uncontrollable costs that are linked to the volatile oil industry. Also continued dependence on fossil fuel would have a deleterious effect on the country’s economy.
It was no surprise therefore when late last month, the mainly Canadian-owned BL&P sent its managing director to tell the media and all Barbadians that renewable energy was “no quick fix” for our ailing economy and the harsh monthly reality of high electricity bills.
As if this obvious attempt wasn’t enough to ensure an essentially stillborn renewable energy sector in Barbados, BL&P added that because photovoltaic and wind systems were intermittent in nature since they depended on weather patterns in terms of wind and sunshine, then renewable energy systems pose problems to the national grid.
Who owns the national grid? Certainly not the average Barbadian who feels the effect of high energy costs every day. And where did BL&P suddenly get expertise in renewable energy to be able to predict a collapse as a result of photovoltaic or wind systems?
Didn’t BL&P’s managing director promise to bring in experts to do an intermittency study to find out “more definitively” how much the Barbados network could truly handle? Yet, the monopoly company is creating misgivings before a renewable energy sector can even be established.
Quick resolution
Fortunately, the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) also has a voice and is calling for a quick “resolution” by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) of its review of BL&P’s renewable energy rider.
This is tremendous news because Government simply cannot remain hesitant – in the face of Barbadians’ cries of high electrical costs, which affect every service and everything we buy and sell – about legislating the orderly divestiture of electrical energy supply.
No one is calling for a wipeout of fossil fuel use but it is absolutely necessary for the renewable energy producers to become partners in the national grid and for users to be able to store energy.
BL&P has to know how critical energy is to the overall cost of living in Barbados.
Against this background, those offering renewable energy systems must continue encouraging Barbadians to get on board, while BREA must continue to let its voice be heard.
And Government, though knowing it will not immediately transform the economy via a renewable energy strategy, must take the bold legislative steps toward divesting the electrical energy sector, thereby creating an ease for poor householders, then cutting the fuel import bill, and eventually reducing the costs of doing business in this country.
Furthermore, Government cannot remain hesitant in drawing down the $80 million renewable energy loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. The funds were not only to support initiatives to reduce the island’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels, but also to establish an Energy Smart Fund to help households and businesses to acquire and install renewable energy systems.
According to IDB calculations, savings to be generated by the Smart Fund and other initiatives under Barbados’ sustainable energy framework are expected to total at least $566 million over the next ten to 15 years, while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 4.5 million tons.
Barbados cannot afford to waste this opportunity.
Barbados now has examples from Brazil which has built the world’s leading biofuels industry, along with China and India which are leaders in producing hydro, wind and biogas energy.
Germany, too, has been legislatively proactive with its feed-in tariffs and since 2007 was the leading solar photovoltaic producer, while the United States is No. 1 in total installed wind energy capacity.
Furthermore, these countries are not collapsing electrically.
• Ricky Jordan is an Associate Editor.