Business tycoon and renewable energy advocate Ralph Bizzy Williams is an angry man.
He is fuming over the tardiness of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) to establish a set price for electricity produced from renewable energy sources.
A furious Williams, the founder and chairman of Williams Industries Inc, accused the FTC, and by extension Government, of setting “the stage for collapse of Barbadian-owned alternative energy industry”.
Williams told Barbados TODAY while his Williams Solar company was doing all it could to help drive down fuel imports and provide clean energy, the FTC seemed hell bent on wiping out “the Bajan investors and hand the industry to the Barbados Light and Power Company on a platter”.
At issue is the lengthy delay by the FTC is setting a fixed rate for electricity sold under the Renewable Energy Rider (RER) programme, nearly a year after the state regulatory agency announced a temporary rate in July 2016.
It had said then it would increase the capacity limit to 500 kW from 150 kW and set a temporary RER credit at $0.416/kWh for solar photovoltaics and $0.315/kWh for wind, “until such time as a permanent rate may be established”.
Williams told Barbados TODAY he had already invested millions in the renewable sector and was interested in investing millions more, yet “the FTC seems to believe that investors will make 25-year investments based on a tariff that is temporary.
“What kind of crazy thinking is that? No bank will finance such an investment.”
The business tycoon said his Williams Solar firm had already produced about 17,200,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity from the sun, enough to power 5,733 “average” homes here for a year, and estimated to have stopped over 12,339 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.
He said it had saved the country “just under 1,000 standard road tankers of oil in energy equivalent” from the renewable energy it had produced.
“The lack of leadership is scandalous,” he said.
“The FTC and the Ministry [of Energy] have set the stage for the collapse of the Barbadian owned alternative energy industry and opened the door for foreign owned BL&P to own all of the future alternative energy installations, leaving Bajans sucking salt because the BL&P rate structure allows them to make a guaranteed return on their investment, and they get to increase prices automatically as the price of oil increases, but the members of BREA [Barbados Renewable Energy Association] are saddled with having to sell all of the electricity they produce at a fixed ‘temporary’ price that is insufficient to repay bank finance with no possibility of any increase if the price of oil increases.
“Williams Solar . . . had high hopes for is now facing closure because the FTC, backed by Government, sees no reason to establish a price for electricity from the sun as requested by the Barbados Renewable Energy Association that is bankable. So no one in their right mind wants to invest anymore,” Williams said.
The island’s sole electricity company, the BL&P, opened a ten megawatt solar farm in St Lucy last year, and is on stream to start construction of a wind farm of similar capacity in the same parish by 2018.
The utility company’s plan is to transition into a 100 per cent renewable energy system within the next 28 years.
Earlier this year, the BL&P announced that as part of that 100/100 Vision by 2045 modernization plan, it was 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.
Currently the country generates just over 90 per cent of its electricity from imported 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.
Only this week, while contributing to the debate on the 2017 Financial Statements and Budgetary Proposals in the Lower House, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said Government was committed to the development of the renewable energy sector.
However, acknowledging that the sector was one for potential growth for the economy, Brathwaite said there was a need for more young Barbadians to invest in the sector and bring new technology.