The nation’s first-ever renewable energy cooperative – the Barbados Sustainable Energy Cooperative Society Ltd (CoopEnergy) has been launched with hopes that Barbadians will become investors in the industry ahead of the 2030 target of an all-clean energy nation.
President of the umbrella Barbados Co-operative and Credit Union League Ltd (BCCUL) Hally Haynes urged citizens not to allow the opportunity to pass them by, warning that foreign investors were already lining up to take advantage of the fledgling industry here.
CoopEnergy, which was registered on June 5, held its inaugural general meeting on Tuesday evening at Co-operators General Insurance Building in Collymore Rock, as a board of seven directors was elected and a supervisory committee of five was set up.
The cooperative intends to increase local ownership and participation in renewable energy, invest in renewable energy systems, energy storage and efficiency and partner with other co-operatives, officials said.
Haynes told the meeting the decision to establish the co-op was taken after several meetings over the past year.
Stating that it had several advantages, the credit union stalwart said it was “the best modality to ensure the widest participation of all Barbadians” in the renewable energy space.
Besides being owned and operated by members, he said, it had the best interest of all residents in mind and everyone had an equal vote, profits are shared and reinvested in the co-op, and it provided the opportunity for everyone to become investors.
Haynes said: “Our climate is changing and is calling for urgent action. Our people and communities are becoming more vulnerable to climate-related disasters.
“Beyond the pressures of climate change, the energy sector is also being tasked to address a broad array of sustainability concerns as outlined in the 2030 agenda Sustainable Development Goals.
“We have an abundance of clean energy resources such as solar, wind and hydro. We have a unique opportunity to exploit these untapped renewable resources.
The credit union is large enough and prepared enough to offer that equity share for the average Barbadian to invest in the renewable energy market..”
CoopEnergy’s strategic vision is geared towards becoming a major developer and equity investor in energy projects, adding that it would contribute to substantial economic enfranchisement through ensuring local retention of economic returns, he said.
But Haynes urged against allowing “foreign interests” to swoop in and gobble up the opportunity.
He warned: “This window of opportunity provides an avenue for the collective financial interest of all Barbadians to become major players in the reengineering of the new renewable energy framework. If we fail to take action in the new renewable energy space now, there are players regionally and internationally that are already on-island with the necessary resources to invest in this renewable energy opportunity.
“Be mindful that the gains of such investments will take flight from our shores. We cannot afford for this to happen. We must use our collective resources to act now in securing our interest and the interest of our children.”
CoopEnergy projects that it would attract at least 3,000 members in its first year and about 200,000 by the year 2030 when Barbados is expected to achieve its goal of powered totally by renewable energy sources.
CoopEnergy, whose financial reporting year will end on December 31 each year, expects to raise capital through shares, deposits, loans, fees, fines, interest, bonds and other investments and donations.
Membership will include individuals, other co-operatives and corporate entities. To become a member, an individual must have ten fully-paid-up, non-withdrawable shares valued at $1,000 and pay a membership fee of $100. No member can own more ten per cent of the co-op.
Through a partnership with credit unions, individuals will be able to access funding to buy shares in CoopEnergy, officials said.
While the officials are targeting investments in at least 30 per cent of the estimated $4.4 billion value in the renewable energy market here, they are hoping that the CoopEnergy could invest roughly $695 million in the first ten years, helping to drive down the estimated $40 million- $80 million that Government spends monthly on energy needs.
Only about 4.5 to five per cent of the island’s electricity needs is said to be produced from renewable energy sources.
Minister of Energy Wilfred Abrahams told the meeting that he was hoping CoopEnergy could be the catalyst for national energy policies.
While pledging the ministry’s continued support to the co-operative, Abrahams said the launching of the CoopEnergy “brings us one step closer to true energy equity”.
Abrahams said: “It is expected that in addition to obtaining energy security and energy sustainability, the Government of Barbados will, over the next decade, significantly reduce its fuel import bill. This bill, which was in excess of $510 million in 2018, represented approximately five per cent of GDP.”
Acknowledging that additional planning and strategizing were necessary for Barbados to become fully dependent on renewable energy, Abrahams said his ministry was still in the process of developing an Integrated Resource Resilience Plan that should be completed by year-end.
This plan will outline the supply of electricity needed from the different types of renewable energy sources that are relevant to Barbados, in order to meet expected demand over the long term. [email protected]
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