Barbados could cut out its almost $1 billion fuel import bill by adopting renewable energy systems, but tax incentives are needed, Central Bank Governor Dr Delisle Worrell has said.
Addressing a Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) meeting Thursday night, at which a consumer’s guide to alternative energy was launched, Worrell spoke of the massive foreign exchange that could be saved, and galloping GDP growth that could come from renewable energy usage.
Following the Governor’s stress on the need for the tax breaks on renewable energy, Minister in the Office Of The Prime Minister Senator Darcy Boyce said Government was still working out the “kinks” that affected permission of such incentives.
Both Worrell and Boyce were invited speakers at BREA’s launch of a Solar Consumer Guide at the Grande Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados.
Speaking of a potential massive savings in foreign currency through renewable energy usage, Worrell said: “If we no longer needed to import the $700-odd million that we spent on fuel imports in 2013, we would have the equivalent of a windfall in foreign exchange earnings.”
Observing that foreign exchange was the key to economic growth in Barbados, he added: “Energy independence would be the equivalent of about four per cent of additional growth in GDP every year, compared to our current prospects. So, now we’re saying growth in 2015 is expected to be 1.5 per cent. If we didn’t have to import $700 million, thereabouts, of fuel we would actually be in a position to raise that growth rate to five and a half per cent.
“This would be far better than discovering oil, from an economic point of view.”
Describing renewable energy as a “game changer of the economy” Worrell conceded, “Economic and financial challenges of realizing the vision of 100 per cent energy self-sufficiency are formidable.”
Noting a need for substantial funding for establishment of a smart grid for the distribution of electricity among other infrastructure, the Governor said: “What is exciting is that Barbados can now achieve energy independence using existing technology . . . and much of which can be made affordable by suitable tax incentives.”
Senator Boyce said Government had “put on the books” several incentives for the renewable sector and energy efficiency, and gave the assurance “we will continue to work over the next few months to make sure that the kinks, the difficulties that we may have been experiencing in getting those incentives operational, that we can get those kinks out of the way”.