Government’s apparent expectation of immediate success from the renewable energy sector is “a big fantasy”.
Barbados Labour Party Shadow Minister of Energy, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Toppin, said it would take up to 20 years for the island to feel the real benefits of such a programme and that even then the majority of energy used would still be based on fossil fuels.
The St. Michael North MP expressed that view yesterday during the Esimates Debate.
“There is a big fantasy in these Estimates and it relates to Government’s renewable energy programme, it really is a big fantasy. We heard the Minister of Finance say that in short order, he likes phrases like that, … government will be bringing to Parliament a bill to give effect to the proposals of the 2012 Budget in relation to renewable energy,” he noted.
“We heard in the Throne Speech that was populated almost entirely with content in relation to the Government’s intended renewable energy programme, we heard the Minister of Finance on Monday castigate the Barbados Labour Party with the absurd allegation that we did nothing to restructure the economy in 14 years, but that they will now be doing so by the introduction of their renewable energy programme.”
“You are talking of a period of approximately 20 years from whenever you start to move to a position of having 70 per cent fossils and 30 renewables. You would never reach the stage in anybody’s lifetime in here or our grandchildren or great grandchildren where you can move to a hundred per cent renewables,” he added.
Toppin said such a process was a medium term one and that “when you consider that there is now a four to four and a half per cent increase in demand being made on the Barbados Light & Power you know that you are going to be dealing with more and more electricity having to be supplied to more and more households that use around 34 per cent of the electricity that is generated in Barbados”.
“So it is important but it is a gradual process, so don’t give the impression that in five years time you are going to make any serious inroads into the use of renewables or that it will be the engine of growth for the Barbadian economy. That cannot happen, and this Government is not known for speed anyhow,” he said.
“If we look at the fact that last year on June 25 the Minister of Finance, as he outlined his proposals in the Budget in relation to renewable energy, he gave the assurance then that the amendments to the Electricity Act would have been before this house in August of last year, 2012, … It is now four months before August this year and still nothing but ill conceived and unresearched comments as usual.
“Government is talking about natural gas powered buses and hybrid vehicles… We don’t have enough natural gas to let the Transport Board operate natural gas buses and I dare say, Sir, that the honorable member for St. Lucy will probably conclude a fishing agreement with Trinidad before we see any pipeline from Trinidad with natural gas coming to Barbados. That is another pie in the sky fantasy of the Democratic Labour Party.”
The Barbados Labour Party member also told Government that instead of marketing its initiative as creating a renewable energy industry, it should realistically be speaking about a renewable energy programme.
“That is important because it means we are not going to make the component parts of a photovoltaic system so we have to import them, which means you have to use foreign exchange to bring them in.
“So while you might be cutting your import bill on the one hand you are going to be increasing your import bill in relation to component parts for photovoltaic systems,” he said.
“So you can rest assured that renewable energy, Sir, is not going to restructure the Barbadian economy, certainly not in the near future and not under this Government that is tardy in doing every conceivable thing.” (SC)