After months of negotiations, Government appears to be finally closing in on a deal that will break a 100-year monopoly held by the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited (BL&P) for the provision of energy and allow ordinary Barbadians to produce their own energy.
Recently appointed Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds disclosed that meetings as recently as this week have been occurring with BL&P’s management to iron out “legal” and “technical” issues to bring negotiations to a close.
He, however, has not given a definitive timeline for wrap-up of negotiations of the deal that could place a significant dent in the country’s $500 million petroleum importation bill.
“We are working right now towards the democratisation and bundling of the supply of energy in Barbados. It means breaking the 100-year monopoly that the Light and Power has enjoyed. I am happy to say that the discussions are progressing in an amicable and productive way. As recently as yesterday, I benefited from a conversation where we took stock between the CEO of the Barbados Light and Power and the PS in the Ministry of Energy for about a half hour on the phone as we try to identify how soon we can bring the negotiations to closure,” Symmonds said on Tuesday.
“The good news for Barbadians is that once we come to that point of closure, we will be making sure that we have democratised the supply of energy in this country and that every Barbadian will be in a position to be independent power producers bringing energy onto the grid or supplying energy independent, so that the energy ceases to have this $500 million of dependency every year in terms of our foreign exchange commitments to the importation of petroleum related products,” he added.
The Energy Minister was addressing stakeholders following a four-hour tour of the National Petroleum Corporation of Barbados (NPC), the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) and the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL).
When asked to provide more specific timelines, he told Barbados TODAY: “We are creeping very close to the end, but I don’t want to give a definitive timeline because it kind of anticipates what either side will do, and obviously because it is an ongoing negotiation, it is very important to be fair to the other side. But Government has made its position very clear before. I think in June, an indication was given to the Light and Power that we can’t keep redlining proposals and underlining areas of change.”
Despite the uncertainty about exactly when negotiations will be concluded, Symmonds has already announced plans to approve licences and provide financing for citizens interested in entering the business of renewable energy. And, as Barbados pursues ambitious targets of becoming 100 per cent fossil fuel-free by 2030, at least three banks have committed to financing such commercial energy initiatives.
Symmonds stressed that he was intent on marrying the energy component of his ministry with the commerce and entrepreneurship aspects in yet another effort of economic diversification and foreign exchange generation beyond tourism and sugar production.
“It provides business opportunities for the people of this country, not only in the generation of your power but storage, and a number of licences will be granted to persons who perhaps…would be able to store electricity,” the Minister said, adding that it is anticipated there will be increasing demands on the grid as more electric vehicles are used.
“Obviously we would want to supplement the use of natural gas by electricity, we want to supplement pretty much everything we are doing now, and in addition to that, we want to make sure that industry at all levels is driven by this renewable effort.
“What will not be acceptable in my judgement is for us to just sit back as a country and once again allow, as has happened with every other economic venture in the history of Barbados, for those people who have commanded the heights of the economy throughout history to continue to do so again to the detriment of those people who are at the base of our economic ladder and are crying out for opportunity,” Symmonds concluded. ([email protected])