Barbados as a pioneer leader in Caribbean renewable energy may be a dream deferred as the economy struggles to recover, the leader of the country’s renewable energy industry has suggested.
“Many individual service providers who entered the sector with great hope and excitement have now moved away from the local industry. Those too afraid to speak watch and suffer in silence at a dream being lost,” said Executive Director of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA), Meshia Clarke.
Government’s debt restructuring programme was evidence that the country was at a critical moment in its economic development, Clarke said in a statement.
The most important market liberalization of the energy sector to date was the Renewable Energy Rider (RER) programme, which has resulted in a significant growth of solar photovoltaic installation, she contended.
But with economic stagnation in recent years, several PV firms had closed, endangering the sector, she suggested.
“Fast-forward to 2018, and this very dream is now under threat! Less than half of the PV installation companies still remain in operation. Prominent firms such as Solaris Global Energy and Aqua Sol were among the first casualties of sectoral frustration and stagnation since 2015,” said Clarke.
“Those which are still in existence, with the exception of a few, are hanging on by a life thread.”
With the new administration’s vision for Barbados becoming a 100 per cent renewable energy and carbon-neutral state by 2030, it was unclear what action plan was being put in place by Government to ensure that target was being effectively met, the renewable energy leader said.
It was also still unclear as to how Government intended to “actively develop and implement the rapid expansion of the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector”, said the BREA president.
Declaring the renewable energy sector to be in “desperate and urgent need of critical policy support”, Clarke repeated key recommendations for public policy changes to boost the uptake of renewable energy.
“The Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) has gone on record and has been actively calling for the appropriate market instruments, including the extension of the existing utility franchise license to accommodate Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) beyond 2028 and permanent Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) regime to be put in place for potential investors,” she said.
She anticipated the introduction of a FIT mechanism “should be of little concern, given the fact that a Formal Economic Analysis Study of the Appropriate Tariff Rates for Renewable Energy Technologies has already been undertaken through the Division of Energy via an open and transparent process of wide stakeholder consultations.
“Of course, let us not forget that it is the FTC, as an independent body, which has the ultimate responsibility for the setting of such rates and that the study was merely a guide towards a pricing methodology to be adopted in the context of the island’s energy market,” she said.
Clarke said that the RER programme, in which the Barbados Light and Power Company buys power from photovoltaic-generated electricity from householders, institutions and firms, should be seen as proof that such types of market instruments and pricing methodologies could stimulate growth of renewable energy.
Otherwise, she said, local businesses and the individuals seeking to invest in the industry would simply be unable to, or unwilling to do so.
“That is of course, with the exception of the utility company which in the absence of an effective policy framework and appropriate market instruments, is well positioned to take charge and make all necessary investments itself as was the case prior to the passage of the Electric Light & Power Act,” she said.
She said while the utility company had a critical role to play, far too long it has been made to drive the pace at which progress was being made.
“Should Barbadian firms and average Barbadians not be given the same opportunity to be part of this transformational dream? Or are we more content to continue under a framework of hastening slowly and duplicating efforts, which in the end serve only to hurt the local private sector and the average Barbadian?”
“We are a country at a critical juncture within our economic development and the luxury of time has now evaded us,” said Clarke, who promised that BREA would remain “the watch dog of the sector and continuously lobby and advocate to ensure that these concerns are kept at the forefront and are appropriately addressed”.