Barbados, like the rest of the Caribbean, has much to gain and little to lose from making the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
However, Chief Executive Officer of the St Eustatius Utility Company (STUCO) Fred Cuvalay is lamenting that the region as a whole has been much too slow in making the transition.
“We have this wonderful resource, solar, and we are procrastinating a lot on how to do it and how best,” he told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of last week’s Sustainability Conference in that Dutch Caribbean island, adding that while there were many theories on how best to make the changeover to renewable energy, St Eustatius had demonstrated in a very practical way that it could be done.
At the end of October this year, St Eustatius completed construction of a four-megawatt (MW) solar farm, which provides for approximately 45 per cent of the island’s energy and is expected to save the territory’s government about $2 million per year.
The project, which begin in January 2014 with a feasibility study, was done in two phases at a cost of about US$16 million and currently supplies power to the just under 4, 000 residents.
“Since then we have had a 30 per cent decrease in the fuel rate per litre, compared to January 2014. Also what you have is little less than ten per cent for equalization, which is the distribution cost for electricity,” Cuvalay said, while promising that customers would start seeing a reduction in their bills next year.
With Barbados hoping to realize a 75 per cent reduction in the use of fossil fuels by 2037, Cuvalay said the important thing was for the authorities to immediately begin the process of implementation of the renewable energy programme.
“You just have to start applying. The technology has caught up and shown that the fear of grid stability is no more a factor. I would say just go for it. Just go for it and take on the challenge, show your communities that you are going more green and just do it,” he suggested.
The electrical engineer also said it was also critical for officials here to get buy-in from all segments of the society, while ensuring that the entire process remained transparent.
“So the thing is, make your decisions as you go . . . . My thing is, I don’t like to be in a lot of discussions. It is what are we going to do and how are we going to do it. If you know you are going to do it, you make a decision and someone takes responsibility and you have a timeframe set,” Cuvalay said.
Last year Barbados spent just over US$300 million or about seven per cent of its gross domestic product on the importation of fuel. This was down from the US$450 million in 2015.