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ON THE RIGHT: The odds favour renewable energy


ON THE RIGHT: The odds favour renewable energy

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THE BIGGEST BATTLE for renewable energy’s ubiquitous adoption by Barbados and the Caribbean is yet to be won and it will be the hardest.

There is no one who would deny the environmental benefits of renewable energy. However, our reality is for most Barbadians, it has always been about money.

In the early days of renewable energy technology, the cost of the systems was the main factor stopping people from even considering the technology.

Then when the Government introduced its incentive, solar photovoltaic systems emerged as a real alternative to traditional sources of power production.

Since that milestone in the journey of renewable energy in Barbados, persons have been making their decision to adopt or not adopt the technology based on the relative annual cost of ownership of a system to the annual cost of purchasing electricity from the utility company.

The comparison was heavily in the favour of renewables at the peak of oil prices, but when oil prices dropped dramatically from $100 per barrel to $35 per barrel that analysis went the other way.

This brings us to the stage where we are at today. At an individual level, the decision to go with renewables is a difficult decision and has therefore slowed the adoption of the technology just as dramatically as it increased with the introduction of the Governments incentives in 2012. But the investment in large scale solar is very attractive and we are seeing a upsurge in interest.

Now we are at a stage in our development where the driving factor that motivated Barbadians to invest in the renewable energy technology has slowed. However, the technology has reached a level of maturity that the idea of 100 per cent renewable Barbados is possible and widely accepted.

So, with no more significant technical barriers, we have to address the more difficult least talked about barrier; overcoming the mature long-standing oil- based economy; the excise taxes on fossil fuels, the revenue from the oil production of Barbados National Oil Company, the storage revenue from Barbados National Terminal Company Limited and the powerful oil companies along with the ecosystem of supporting companies.

I am no economist, and I don’t want to oversimplify this situation, but I would give up some local revenue to avoid looking for more foreign exchange that we have very little of right now. It would probably be easier to find another source of local revenue than it would be to earn more foreign currency.

Are we are going to maintain spending approximately US$400 million for fossil fuels, maintain a small group of very wealthy and powerful people, continue to damage the environment, and continue to depend on the $200 million plus in excise taxes and in value added tax and corporate taxes from the oil companies?

Or are we going to embrace a cleaner environment for our children, repurposing the US$400 million to other areas, widening the wealth creation and give more Barbadians the opportunity to own an energy business or become an electricity generator, eliminating the volatility and uncertainty of the oil market and last but not least create a sustainable economy with a foundation of energy independence?

Renewable energy is future and the sooner we acknowledge that the sooner we can get to a more sustainable and independent economy.

Jerry Franklin is an engineer, energy solutions provider and vice-president of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association.