The amendments to the Electric Light and Power Act should be the catalyst Barbados needs to achieve its goal of becoming fossil fuel free by 2030.
Speaking during debate on the bill in the Senate this afternoon, Opposition Senator Crystal Drakes, said, “At present we are using 10,000 barrels of oil a day, 9,000 of which are imported, so we have a problem as it relates to our foreign exchange and being able to afford fuel coming in, and we are at the mercy of the international market in terms of the cost of oil and energy generation. Our import bill was $2.9 billion, and 25 per cent of that went to fuel alone. This bill gives us an opportunity to save foreign exchange and the inflation volatility caused by the movement of oil prices worldwide.”
She stated that Barbados has a lot of work to do to achieve its renewable energy targets by the specified dates.
“Barbados currently has a 20-year energy policy covering the years 2017 to 2037. That policy states that one of the goals is to reach 34 per cent in renewable energy generation by 2022. Now if we are at less than five percent in 2019, and want to increase to 34 per cent by 2022, and to become carbon neutral by 2030, we have a lot of work to do. So why has there not been a greater uptake in this? Cost is a factor, because a lot of people cannot make that upfront investmnt, so Government should be creative in how they incentivise people to get interested in renewable energy.”
In her contribution to the debate Senator Alphea Wiggins expanded on the incentive aspect, stating that the education process should also include commercial banks and other financial institutions, whom she stated did not quite understand the benefits such systems brought.
“It is important that we let the banks know how much people can save by using these panels to generate electricity vis a vis fossil fuel driven energy, so they will be more willing to lend money to homeowners who want to do this type of upgrade.”
Senator Rawdon Adams, who commended Senator Drakes on her presentation, noted the bill was a “work in progress” as the different aspects of it would develop over time. He said Government should maintain its interest in the Barbados Light and Power Company.
“It is a work in progress because it gives us options in some areas, such as licences for transmission, distribution, dispatch, generation, and storage; some of those things we will learn as we go along. I believe it is also important we retain a good relationship with the Barbados Light and Power Company, because when it was sold to Emera, the National Insurance Scheme had owned 30 per cent of it, and at the time I was puzzled as to why a pension fund would want to sell an asset that was stable, paying a six per cent dividend a year, when there was no alternative option available.”
In explaining that point, he noted that Norway had invested in an oil field that had proven very lucrative, and has invested the funds generated into its social security scheme, as well as one per cent of it in every company listed on the world’s stock exchanges.
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Rudolph Greenidge, in supporting the bill, spoke of the contributions of pioneers like James Husbands of Solar Dynamics and the late Professor Oliver Headley in the solar energy sector.
He also paid tribute to former Senator and UWI lecturer Wendell McClean, who fought to ensure that utility companies with monopolies did not use their position to exploit consumers.
“He believed that every monopoly vested with power is apt to abuse it, and he always emphasised the point that the only way to prevent that was to prevent the inclination towards it by putting the necessary legislation in place. He did not live long enough to see it, but he would have been pleased to see Government moving towards the breaking down of monopolies in the public utilities sector.”