When it comes to ownership of the alternative energy sector here, prominent businessman and renewable energy advocate Ralph “Bizzy” Williams wants home drums to beat first.
Arguing that Barbados was in a “unique” position to be “the poster child” for alternative energy in the world, Williams told participants at a renewable energy and energy efficiency workshop at Hilton Barbados Resort that he wished to see alternative energy become accessible to every Barbadian.
And he said one way to achieve this was to “democratize” the process and ensure that Barbadians control a majority of the sector.
“I believe that at least 60 per cent of all alternative energy produced in Barbados should be owned by Barbadian citizens or companies that are owned by Barbadian citizens,” said Williams to applause during a question and answer session.
He made reference to the Canadian energy and services company, Emera, which he said had spent “a tremendous amount of money” here to invest in the Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P).
Williams admitted that there was “a role” for Emera to play in the distribution of electricity, but he said there must be a limit to this role.
“I do not wish to see a situation where Emera owns the entire thing, otherwise you are going to get objection from lots of good people who would like to invest some of their savings,” the founder and chairman of Williams Industries said.
He contended that commercial banks here were very liquid with billions of dollars of Barbadians’ savings but “cannot find who to lend this money to”, and called for the development of a formula through which the financial institutions would “lend this billions of dollars of Barbadian savings out with good security that every little Bajan can borrow money to put two, three or four kilowatts on their house”.
He called on both the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) and BL&P to support this recommendation, while arguing that with over 90,000 private homes on the island, two kilowatt per home would allow Barbadians of all walks of life to benefit from alternative energy.
He discouraged participation in energy auctions, contending they would “guarantee” that the sector would end up in foreign hands, thus excluding locals.
“We need a feed in tariff, that every new system that is installed there is a guaranteed feed in tariff for that system for the duration of the life span, which [could be] about 25 years. We need that,” said Williams.
The renewable energy auction is a public sale at which individuals or companies bid for a total amount or for a portion of available megawatt capacity, while with the feed in tariff scheme contracts are offered to renewable energy producers, usually based on the cost of generation of each technology.
The renewable energy and energy efficiency workshop explored the topic, The Renewable Energy Sector: Enhancing Understanding, Building Collaboration.