As Government seeks to break the monopoly in electricity production and distribution here, two of Barbados’ most prominent advocates of renewable energy want alternate energy plants to be majority locally-owned.
Businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams said while he believed the Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P) was “the best run utility company in the entire Caribbean”, he strongly believed that the time had come for an alternative energy power generation plant that is “at least 60 per cent owned by Barbadians or Barbadian-owned companies”.
“So while I am very happy with the Barbados Light & Power I would like them to focus on distribution and charge for distribution. Charge for distributing the electricity generated by alternative energy. But the actual ownership of the plant that is producing the alternative energy I believe should be very widely-owned in Barbados,” he explained.
Leading the debate on amendments to the Electric Light and Power Act in Parliament on Tuesday, Minister of Energy and Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams made it clear that the days of BL&P’s monopoly in the production, generation, distribution and transmission of electricity in Barbados was coming to an end as Government makes greater efforts to build out the alternative energy sector here.
Abrahams also lauded the utility company for its reliability over the years, but insisted that the time had come for it to upgrade its generating plant, move its overhead infrastructure underground, and share the generation and distribution space with new players in renewable energy.
“Admittedly it has no competition and could probably stand some competition going forward, but in terms of utilities, the Barbados Light & Power is one of the most reliable organisations in Barbados,” said Abrahams.
Williams said his recommendation for majority ownership by residents of the infrastructure to generate electricity would see the profits being “reinvested in Barbados and not remitted overseas to overseas owners of the alternative energy infrastructure”.
The business magnate argued that with Barbadians having over $1 billion in regular savings accounts in the banking system earning very little returns, they should consider putting those funds into new opportunities.
He said it was for this reason that Williams Caribbean Capital (WCC), a subsidiary of Williams Industries Inc., was launched and introduced the green energy bonds.
The first-of-its-kind green energy bonds to be certified by the Climate Bond Standard Board was founded in 2017 and has already made some US$20 million investment in the sector.
“Williams Renewable Energy has a mandate to raise money from Barbadians who have savings accounts all across the country and allow them to invest in the alternative energy industry and get a much better return on their money than they are getting now. Williams Caribbean Capital developed a Green Energy Bond to enable Barbadians to invest in the alternative energy infrastructure in Barbados,” said Williams.
Former Minister of Energy and senior member of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) Clyde Griffith issued a similar call, saying the time had come for greater local investment in the alternative energy sector.
He said he supported the move by Government to involve more players in the generation and distribution of electricity.
And he said, while the BL&P had done “a lot for the country”, the time had come for more to be done to build out the renewable energy sector, especially if Government wanted to meet its 2030 goals of becoming fully dependent on alternative sources for energy.
“As we go forward on the renewable energy platform, we need to be very clear. Do we want to break the monopoly that Light & Power has? That is the first question. I can’t deny that it has worked for us and I have watched other utilities across the region and the world who have not done enough for their country as the BL&P has done for Barbados,” said Griffith.
However, he said he was eager to see the day when renewable energy was on the lips of every resident and they were investing in the sector.
He insisted that with climate change taking place rapidly, Barbados had to do its bit to mitigate the impacts, while creating new opportunities.
“I have been on record as saying that we want more local investment than international investment. Is this going to happen? The Prime Minister recently talked about the billions of dollars we have in the bank. We need to get Barbadians and Caribbean people to understand the importance of putting some of that money into renewable energy,” he said.
“Renewable will generate a lot of nice, clean jobs, it will save foreign exchange and reduce our vulnerability to the decisions of oil barring internationally. Therefore, we have to get behind this. What is key is that we need to get Barbadians sensitized to the importance of local investment. If local people take the risk and invest then you can’t go wrong,” said Griffith.