Government, led by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, has set an ambitious target of making Barbados completely dependent on renewable energy and eliminating the use of fossil fuels by the year 2030.
Some of the plans include using photovoltaic (solar-powered) panels, wind turbines, and a waste to energy plant to generate electricity along with having a fleet of 100 per cent electric Government vehicles.
The Government has taken some steps towards this goal over the last two years. This month alone, the long-awaited electric buses for the Transport Board’s fleet finally arrived on the island and are expected to go into service shortly.
Last week, the Senate passed the Fair Trading Commission Amendment Bill, which is aimed at making life easier for companies involved in renewable energy to play a role in electricity generation.
Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Jerome Walcott, said as he underscored the importance of the measure: “There are a number of different categories; five for solar, one for biomass, one for biogas, one for wind.
“It is very important if we are to proceed towards our 100 per cent renewable energy generation goal by 2030. We use 9,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil yearly, 50 per cent for energy, and one third for transportation, there will be benefits in terms of protecting the economy, an opportunity for small Barbadians to invest in the process, and we will be saving foreign exchange.”
But Opposition Senator Crystal Drake raised a valid point during the debate. She said: “Other countries that have gone this route did so over a much longer period of time, for example, 15, 20, 25 years, so given the amount of time we have set ourselves, we are going to have to move much faster.”
One of her concerns was whether it was practical for the average Barbadian consumer, as well as new and used car dealers, to switch to electric cars exclusively.
We have set ourselves the goal of 2030, but the United Kingdom has given itself until 2045 to eliminate all gasoline and diesel-powered cars from its roads.
Currently, there are an estimated 500 electric cars on the road in Barbados, many of which use the same fossil fuels when hooked up to charging stations to power them up.
The Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology has recently introduced a course in Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Repair in its Auto-Mechanics Division, but there is little to no effort to educate the average Barbadian on the benefits of going green in their choice of vehicle. There is concern about what we are going to do with all the conventionally powered vehicles once these restrictions come into force.
There are some solutions. About 12 years ago, Courtesy Garage, the agents for Nissan, brought in a few vehicles converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), the fuel we presently use when we cook using “gas bottles”, and there are kits available to modify vehicles to use this fuel.
Bio-diesel, made up of used cooking oil from restaurants and hotels, is also available in this market and is used mostly for vans and other commercial vehicles.
Government and insurance companies may also want to consider offering incentives to encourage people to either buy electric cars or have their cars converted to the alternative fuels.
In terms of public transport, a local firm installed an electric motor in an old Transport Board bus, and minibus operators have expressed an interest in using electric vehicles as well. Using this local firm and others to convert buses to electric power, or indeed LPG or bio-diesel will save us the foreign exchange associated with importing new vehicles.
Yes, we all want to see a ‘cleaner and greener’ Barbados, but we must put not only the physical and financial, but educational infrastructure in place so that people can come fully on board with the process.
It may be in our best interest to give ourselves a little more time instead of rushing to achieve a target without being properly prepared for it.