Barbadians can expect sweeping changes to the local electricity landscape, as the Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (BL&P) transitions into a 100 per cent renewable energy system within the next 30 years.
As part of its 100/100 Vision by 2045 plan, the company is also preparing to make significant modifications and adjustments to the national grid. The changes will also affect the general electricity infrastructure and pricing and promote greater use of technology.
The changes should also redound to new services, and give BL&P better control over its operating costs, and over time, an improved customer and employee experience as it eliminates its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation.
BL&P Managing Director Roger Blackman made the revelations at the Barbados Employers’ Confederation’s annual luncheon at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today.
Speaking on the topic Business Transformation, Blackman said: “We anticipate going forward that the system or the model will further evolve from the traditional power grid to something that more closely resembles the Internet, an energy Internet if you like, where the grid becomes an energy services platform that provides customers with information on energy management and access to new energy products and services they consume. There will be multi-way power flow, so really it is a mesh network of flows of power both from central generated stations and from customers homes to other customers’ homes.
“There will be negotiated controls, so no longer one way controls where the utility is sending signals necessarily to devices on the network. You will have smart devices on the network that can evaluate what is happening in the condition of the system and make decisions on its own – it is programmed to evaluate and open or close when appropriate.”
The modernization of the national grid will also result in different pricing methods, Blackman said, explaining that it would “depend on where you are on the network and the amount of infrastructure and assets that need to be installed to support that location on the network”.
“And as systems become more sophisticated there is the ability to track those costs and build them into tariffs and differentiate on a location standpoint,” he added.
As part of its modernization plan, the company has already installed a ten-megawatt solar farm in Trents, St Lucy as it seeks to reposition itself as the renewable energy leader.
“People have a choice and in order to remain relevant and competitive we needed to make a change,” said Blackman, adding that the company would be focusing more on customer demands.
He said while the country was doing “a little better now” with renewable sources of energy, it was “far from where we need to be to ensure energy security on the island and relieve that foreign exchange drain that comes with the heavy dependence on fossil fuels”.
Currently, Barbados generates just over 90 per cent of its electricity from imported fossil fuels, while about 40 per cent of its energy imports go towards electricity generation. The other 60 per cent goes to transportation, commerce and other areas.
The senior BL&P executive suggested that floating wind platforms could resolve the challenges with wind farms on the island.
“The potential solution is floating wind platforms. That is still not commercial but under development, and we have experts in the business who are trialing that,” Blackman said.
He pointed to the importance of closer collaboration among other sectors, including agriculture and waste management, to achieve the goal of 100 per cent renewable energy generation here.
He said there would also need to be legislative changes, as well as transformation of the transportation and manufacturing sectors.
Not saying if or how the transformation had impacted the company’s bottom line, Blackman acknowledged that with the expansion of renewable energy sources for electricity generation over the past decade, the demand for electricity from the company had been relatively flat, and it was not expected to change in the coming years.
“What that means is that our cut of that pie becomes smaller, but as a business we don’t mind because the pie itself is growing as we go to 100 per cent electrification. So we are taking a smaller cut of a much bigger pie when we electrify the economy,” he said.