The deeply controversial Cahill waste-to-energy project by the former Government is dead and buried but the Mottley administration is about to unveil another waste-energy facility on the same spot at Vaucluse, St Thomas.
The revelation has come from Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland as he led off debate today in the House of Assembly on two companion pieces of legislation – the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) Amendment Bill 2020 and the Utilities Regulation Amendment Bill 2020.
Sutherland explained the amendments were necessary to legitimize the FTC’s ability to set rates for the provision of renewable energy, as well as regulate operators in the sector and protect consumer rights in this quickly expanding economic area.
While the Minister did not reveal the identity behind the investors behind the $320 million project, he touted the project’s ability to generate good returns on investment and create several jobs for Barbadians.
Stressing that Government “needed to get the regulatory agenda right” the St George South Member of Parliament said the administration was moving quickly to meet the target of transitioning the island to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
And to reach the goal of 600 to 625 megawatts (MW), Government was facilitating solar energy, land-based wind power, biogas and solid biomass energy production, as the island moves away from fossil fuels importation which cost the country $728.1 million in 2019.
One megawatt (MW) is equivalent to 1 000 kilowatts (KW).
Sutherland told the Lower Chamber: “As I speak to you in the absence of the tourism sector . . . we need investment to spur the growth and [renewable energy] is where it is coming from. The FTC as I speak to you is preparing a rate for biomass technology for a waste-to-energy plant at Vaucluse, St Thomas.
“The size of this plant is 25MW waste-to-energy and biomass plant and the investment for this plant is some $320 million. So when you can sit and tell me that this Government isn’t working, something is wrong.”
In his two-hour presentation, Sutherland insisted that the Mottley administration was not “twiddling its thumbs” during the COVID-19 pandemic “waiting for tourism to rebound”.
In a broadside at the former Democratic Labour Party government, Sutherland told the House of Assembly that the last administration “tinkered” with the renewable energy sector while the current Government was now laying the groundwork for a major expansion of the sector.
“An additional 20 megawatts of licences were issued under the Renewable Energy Rider programme in 2019. . . . They are not on the grid but they have been issued.
“That’s 54 MW out of the estimated 625 MW capacity that represents just over 8.5 per cent. So we are at a delicate stage in the history of this country and we have to push this sector. These legislative amendments are critical to move forward. Only 8.6 per cent has been committed so far out of the 625 MW capacity that we have allocated to reach our 2030 target of 100 per cent renewable energy,” he told the House.
He added: “After 2021 we have eight years to install 86 per cent of the renewable capacity in this country . . . and if you divide that equally, the challenge is to install roughly 67 MW of renewable energy capacity annually to meet our target. We are faced with a situation as a result of the inertia of the last administration. We now have to fast track the renewable energy sector investments and projects.”
He admitted 67 MW annually was a big ask but it could be achieved. He argued that Cahill was proposed to be a 40MW waste-to-energy facility using an “unproven technology” with an agreement to sell Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) at a rate of 66 cents per KW. According to Sutherland that rate would have been equivalent to the cost of running one of BL&P’s least efficient systems.