Is it time to save the emerging solar photovoltaic sector?
For at least one small electronics company, which has invested thousands of man-hours and dollars, this appears to be the case.
Barbadians have a culture of criticism, but come up very short when identifying solutions and taking the decisions to resolve their challenges.
So we can blame falling oil prices for the gloom and doom about the future of the many companies that invested in anticipation of a boon in business, employment and reducing of the country’s whopping oil import bill and the attendant drain on foreign exchange.
We can blame politicians on both sides of the fence for not understanding and coming together to create a road map, a policy based not only officially stated goals but inclusive of the regulatory and fiscal support.
We can also blame the industry for not forking out the dollars and advocating the changes needed under the renewable energy sector.
As the late Professor Rex Nettleford would say in his lectures, there is the need to see the forest from the trees. In other words, there is a need to understand that we are dealing with a critical industry and changes have to be made now if it is to survive.
Can we afford those companies that have workers going idle in the solar photovoltaic business to open shoe stores and close their doors, along with the investment, and hopefully when oil prices rise and Barbadians become scared about the implications for their financial well-being that they get back into the business?
The emerging or dying renewable energy sector must not only be presented with talk but with action. This is critical to the island’s economic development. It is not
just about putting panels on a roof and saving some money from Barbados & Light and Power (BL&P).
The rate structure under the Renewable Energy Rider has served a purpose, but it is no longer valid if the emerging sector is to survive.
The simple fact is businesses have to make money for them to be feasible and for the society at large to benefit.
It is not only Barbados Light & Power, rate of return concerns and stability of the electricity grid that matter.
If the industry is allowed to die, then when the oil industry sorts out its political and economic issues, the Barbadian economy, which has grown sluggishly, thanks to low oil prices, will see its foreign exchange bill soar, and the jobs to be made in a fledgling sector would have dried up.
Perhaps this is why Ralph “Bizzy” Williams’ wake-up call to Barbados is one of national concern and not a self-serving rant.
It is not time to cast a net of blame.
Maybe it is time to cast a net to changing the Renewable Energy Rider and a rate structure for photovoltaic business which continues to be based on a fossil fuel agenda that is no longer relevant.
Perhaps it is time to save the renewable energy sector.
(Hallam Hope is a long-standing student of regulatory policy.