THE ISSUE: Lower energy costs at the core
Should Barbados pursue a 100 per cent renewable energy system?
Is a 100 per cent renewable energy system the answer to Barbados’ energy problems?
Prominent German university Professor Olav Hohmeyer thinks so, and he outlined his ideas for such a outcome during a recent Barbados Renewable Energy Association lecture and panel discussion at the Grande Salle, Tom Adams Financial Centre.
However, there are those, including some key players in the energy sector, who believe that even before Barbados considers the proposal Hohmeyer tabled, it should focus on energy conservation and efficiency.
Hohmeyer said Barbados had what it took to supply all of its energy needs from renewable sources within the next ten years, saying such a venture would need $1.8 billion investment and involve the installation of photovoltaic, and wind energy systems, and storage facilities.
The professor and chair of energy economics at the University of Flensburg, Germany, said: “I propose it is possible to supply Barbados a hundred per cent with energy and lower the electricity bill by about $150 [million] to $200 million every year at present technology prices. At the same time, going a hundred per cent renewables on electricity, on power supply, you can save about $300 million in diesel imports every year, which translates into US$150 million hard currency which I think the Central Bank of Barbados would be very happy not to have flow [out of Barbados],” he said.
Among those giving qualified support to the proposal was Emera Caribbean Limited vice president, asset management, David McGregor. However, McGregor said rather than focus on building the system as proposed by Hohmeyer, Barbados needed to focus on energy conservation and efficiency first.
If this was done, he said, there would be no need to install the amount of energy capacity Hohmeyer proposed
“We need to be reshaping the demand curve, we need to start conservation first. The cheapest and greenest megawatt hour is the one that’s not used and that’s the one we need to tackle first. I think as an island, as a power company, as a government, as stakeholders, we have got some decisions to make, we are a crossroads,” McGregor said.
Then there was Central Bank Governor
Dr DeLisle Worrell, who said Barbados should consider focusing on the production of electrical power using the sun’s energy.
“This is the ideal energy solution for Barbados. Every single day Barbadians generate vast amounts of energy on the roofs of our homes and businesses, almost all of it completely wasted, because it is in the form of heat. A little of that energy is used to heat water, through our long-established solar water heating industry. But that is trifling compared with the potential for near self-sufficiency which is in prospect, if we were to capture the energy from our roofs to generate electricity,” he recommended.
Barbados is not alone in weighing the pros and cons of these issues.
At the recent Caribbean Exporters’ Colloquium organised by the Caribbean Export Development Agency a panel of experts said the region should do all within its power to transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy society.
Alexis George, project officer with the Government of Dominica’s Geothermal Project Management Unit and CEO of Caribbean LED Lighting Inc., Jim Reid, both said having an economy based on 100 per cent adoption of alternative energy was achievable.
“We need to think differently and go after change as if our life depends on it,” Reid said.
George said government has a transition role to play and has played a significant role in Dominica where geothermal energy holds out the best prospect in alternative energy.