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Banking on renewable energy


Banking on renewable energy

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THE FAIR TRADING COMMISSION (FTC) hosted its 12th annual lecture and the presenter was Dr Warren Smith who spoke on Regulating Utilities In Small Island Developing States – Lessons For The Caribbean.

He is a very accomplished professional and is currently the president of the Caribbean Development Bank. In his presentation he approached it from the perspective of the regulatory role in the key areas of development for the Caribbean and to no surprise to most of the audience, one of the main areas he spoke about was energy security through the adoption of renewable energy as our primary source of generating electricity.

He said that the World Development Bank had several key development objectives of which energy security was one, but what was even more interesting was that the ubiquitous adoption of renewable energy was the enabler for several of the other objectives and therefore he indicated how critical the transition to renewable energy as quickly as possible was.

He said that for the Caribbean to accomplish the key development objectives it can’t be business as usual and there need to be a serious transformation from the way we currently regulated critical utilities like water and electricity.

He said that the transformation to renewable energy was so important that governments through there regulatory bodies like the FTC needs to create an environment for rapid growth of the renewable energy sector.

He said that the current GDP growth rate in the Caribbean would not cut it. In his estimation, a five per cent to seven per cent growth in GDP was required which is a significant increase from where we are now. In a previous presentation, the Governor of the Central Bank stated a similar transformation could be achieved through the adoption of renewable energy.

He added that if we could transition from using oil as our primary source of energy to renewable energy and stop sending more than $600 million out of the economy, that alone would result in a five per cent to seven per cent GDP growth in two to three years.

In his view, there is no other economic strategy that could result in that kind of growth for Barbados’ economy.

There were several very important statements made in Smith’s presentation, but allow me for a moment now to reflect on the substantive point he made.

Simply put, the transformation to renewable energy should be one of the most important objectives all Caribbean islands, should have and they should be focusing their efforts towards facilitating that transformation.

I am on public record in several of my articles saying the same thing and it was heartening to hear several of my views on what we should be doing in Barbados were consistent with Smith’s.

However, it was also disheartening to know that the sector in Barbados is on life support as a result of a several of issues which boils down to policy or the lack thereof.

With something this important possibly being able to transform this island’s economy, I would like to think it would be a critical part of the nation objectives and discourse, but currently it just seems only to be the concern of the companies in the sector and advocates of renewable energy.

Smith endorsed a more distributed approach to the proliferation of the technology, which is also my view.

One of the many thought provoking statements he made was that all Barbadians should take note of our accomplishments in the 1970s and 1980s with solar water heating.

He said we should be looking to replicate these accomplishments with renewable energy electric generation and we should be looking at accessing the many funds that will become available from the recent environmental summit in France. I am not sure if Barbadians appreciate the accomplishments we made with solar water heating, but it is one we need to be very proud of and it is one we should be very focused on replicating with solar electric technology.

In my humble opinion, renewable energy is a critical part of securing our future and transforming our economy and it seems to be the view of some of the Caribbean’s eminent development bankers.

However, we now need to have our Government move beyond what was already done for the sector and make some substantive changes to assist the sector overcome the current challenges.

This sector represents a solid foundation for Barbados and the Caribbean’s future economic and environmental stability.

Jerry Franklin is managing director of EnSmart Inc. Franklin is an engineer, energy auditor, equipment tester, and energy solutions provider. Email: [email protected]

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