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THE ISSUE: Energy sector reform benefits economy

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

THE ISSUE: Energy sector reform benefits economy

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OVER THE YEARS, analysts have argued that Barbados’ high energy costs made the productive sectors, especially manufacturers, uncompetitive when compared to their counterparts in other countries, especially Trinidad and Tobago.

This was largely due to the fact that Barbados is a net importer of fossil fuels while its neighbour is a net exporter. In recent years Barbados has earned some respite from the fact that oil prices have been low, although this is not expected to continue.

While Barbados still pays hundreds of millions of dollars importing oil products, it has saved significant amounts of foreign exchange because of reduced prices in the international market.

Barbados has simultaneously pursued its policy of becoming a greener economy, largely through the adoption of more renewable energy.

However, renewable energy industry stakeholders have complained that the reduced oil prices Barbados benefitted from in recent years contributed to complacency and the ector has been taken for granted.

Barbados has also been pursuing its effort to find oil offshore, something that would be a major economic boost.

All of this suggests that having a comprehensive policy could go a long way towards ensuring the island benefits economically from the energy sector’s various components.

In this regard, energy policy consultant David Ince recently presented government with an Interim Draft Of National Energy Policy For Barbados 2017 To 2036.

Several visionary goals were identified including an energy sector that reflects a collaborative and participatory approach to development; an energy sector that offers a diversity of sustainable energy options both renewable and non-renewable, with a trajectory towards an increasing percentage of renewable energy in the energy mix; an energy sector that offers energy products that are affordable to local citizens; an energy sector that offers continuous and reliable supply of energy in all associated sectors and subsectors; and an energy sector that offers significant opportunities for local entrepreneurship and international investment.

Speaking last November at a Caribbean sustainable energy conference organised by the Barbados Renewable Energy Association, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart highlighted the important role energy had to play in ensuring the economy developed in a sustainable manner.

“The Government’s vision is now one of Barbados becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy island within the next 50 years, based on the use of indigenous local renewable energy sources,” he said.

“On the way to achieving this goal, we now comfortably expect that a target of 65 per cent of peak electricity capacity can be achieved by 2030, taking into account the suite of investments which have been and will be undertaken within the next few years.”

Land use is one of the key policy areas necessary for the energy sector to develop. In this regard, Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins said planned amendments to the Physical Development Plan (PDP) would seek to facilitate the sector’s development. He said the PDP would include the recognition of “clean/renewable energy as an effective means of addressing climate change and national levels of greenhouse gas emissions; identify appropriate locations for renewable energy related infrastructure and establish criteria for the development of major renewable energy projects”.

Illustrating the benefit of sound energy policy, Division of Energy chief project analyst Bryan Haynes recently said that a 75 per cent reduction in fossil fuel consumption with clean and renewable alternatives would provide an estimated $2.2 billion in annual social and economic benefits.