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Agree on one renewable plan


Agree on one renewable plan

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SINCE GERMAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OLAV HOHMEYER introduced the idea of a 100 per cent renewable energy plan for Barbados there has been lots of interest in a significant increase of penetration in renewable energy for the island.

There are now two other proposals for a 100 per cent renewable Barbados with diverging views on how to accomplish this, one from Emera Caribbean and one from Viking Development Group.

The most comprehensive to date is Emera Caribbean’s. All of the 100 per cent renewable energy plans use solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines as the main means of generation, with a variety of different technical ways to address the challenges of going 100 per cent renewable.

A plan to transform Barbados to a 100 per cent renewable energy destination has huge benefits for us. So I believe all the key stakeholders – Government, Emera, Barbados Renewable Energy Association, and renewable energy companies need to come together and agree on one plan.

One thing in the Emera plan that really caught my attention was their vision to make Barbados a model for the world, a true green destination and green economy.

Just stop and think for a moment what this can do for our beautiful little island. One of the top tourist destinations with electric transportation, energy efficient hotels all running from renewable energy, an economy transformed from a fossil fuel dependent economy to a green economy. These are all great aspirational goals that are achievable.

However, it will not be easy; not from a technological perspective because the technology already exists, but because of factors such as societal inertia, the need for legislative and regulatory changes to facilitate the evolution of the power generation and so on.

So the most important first step is to get one plan and get every Barbadian dreaming the dream and seeing the vision. A Barbados with no emissions from fossil fuels and a real increase in GDP gained from re-purposing our foreign exchange used for the purchase of fossil fuels to other areas of economic development.

We have to start now, because although Barbados’ energy requirements are small relative to developed countries, the ubiquitous adoption of renewable energy and transforming from a fossil fuel economy will not be easy. After we agree on one plan the next most important step is the policies and regulatory framework. How do we change the current legislation that gives Barbados Light & Power Company the sole right to resell electricity?

There are many things to consider here, including; how does the utility company dispose of their multi-million dollar assets that were purchased to generate electricity using fossil fuels? How does a new company that is generating renewable power gets the power to your home? How will rates be calculated when the generation of the power and the distribution of the power can be two different companies?

Then we need to look at the economics. Government now generates revenue from the sale of oil-based products. How will that revenue stream be replaced? How do we change over to electrified vehicles? By legislation, incentives or by choice?

The Barbados Water Authority is the largest consumer of electricity, so how will the pumping of water be transformed and integrated into the renewable energy plan? What do we do with gas and diesel vehicles as we change to electric vehicles? How do we get every hotel to embrace and invest in the changes required to transform their plant to a more efficient plant? How are we going to fund this development?

Although there are many investors eager to invest in developing countries’ renewable energy projects, we still have to be mindful that all investment comes at a price and we would not want to shift dependency from fossil fuels to foreign investors.

There are many more challenges that are not technical. So for this dream to be realised there needs to be a national buy-in first, followed by a national discourse on this plan, because it will impact every Barbadian.

There are no countries to look at because this has never been done. However, because Barbados is small, there are aspects of this plan that we can learn from other countries. Some states and cities that are larger than Barbados have done transformations. It would require individual effort to accomplish this goal.

Although much of the plan would be centralised infrastructure, each household still needs to become efficient, they would have to invest in electric vehicles and some would have their own renewable energy system. Any plan will obviously take time to accomplish this goal, but I believe it would be great for Barbados. If there is one thing we all agree on is that we love this island and we want to see it at the top again.

Jerry Franklin is managing director of EnSmart Inc. Franklin is an engineer, energy auditor, equipment tester, and energy solutions provider.