Barbados can become the hub of renewable energy in the region.
And that’s because the country has the finance and the technical expertise to make it a reality.
President of Fairway Developments Ltd, David Staples, gave this assurance last night while speaking on a panel discussion on the topic “Opportunities, Challenges and Solutions to the Movement of People and Business in Caricom” at the Tom Adams Financial Centre, Church Village, the City.
The panel discussion, which featured Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, Robert Morris and Staples, was sponsored by the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries.
Staples, who once served as an energy adviser to former Prime Ministers Errol Barrow, Tom Adams and Sir Harold St. John, suggested that taking the lead from some larger countries, Barbados should reserve sectors of business activity for local companies only.
The businessman pointed out that Grenada had put regulations in place to ensure that only local companies could be involved in renewable energy projects.
Arguing that such policies made sense, Staples pointed out that many of the major shareholders may reside in places as far away as Halifax in Canada or Dublin, Ireland without any interest in the welfare of the country.
He described renewable energy is an area of hope for Barbados, and argued that the sector could be a key building block to sustainable energy.
“It is an area where Barbados can be an international player,” Staples said. “Barbados can be a serious contender worldwide. We are going to build renewable energy in Barbados, while Sir Kyffin Simpson is going to build his mega farm in Guyana. We will move out to the region. We have the management skills, we understand the technology and we have the ability to raise the capital.”
In an attempt to allay the fears of those who believe that such a major project would deplete the country’s foreign reserves, Staples gave the assurance that Williams Industries, which has an interest in Fairways Development, could raise the funds overseas.
“We can borrow foreign exchange on foreign markets so we do not have to utilise the foreign exchange the Central Bank tries to hold on to. Williams Industries can repay the funds over a 10- to 15-year period,” Staples said.
Staples pointed out that Williams Industries raised $6 million from the USA Import/Export Bank over a ten-year period at a good rate of interest.
He asked: “Show me money like that in Barbados. That money came from overseas and we have 15 years to repay it and in the interim the oil that we do not have to import and pay in foreign currency will bring benefits to all of us.”
Staples told his audience that he was speaking about renewable energy of such a scale that the country could start closing down power plants.
“We are talking of 30 to 40 megawatts of electricity. We think that the Barbados Light & Power total installed capacity is 220 megawatts, while their peak demand is 160 megawatts. The cost of this system has dropped by 50 per cent over the last few years and we at Williams have installed almost two megawatts of photovoltaic electricity,” Staples said.
Staples stressed that renewable energy was one area where the results were better than the assumption.
“It is an amazing success story,” he added. “There is a role here for local companies. We can keep the operating system here, we can keep the profits here and after 10 to 15 years when all the foreign exchange is paid back it can stay here.” (NC)