Officials are reporting an uptick in the number of individuals and business operators interested in installing renewable energy systems. They say, however, there is still “a lot of ground to cover” in meeting the country’s energy goals.
This was highlighted during a Domestic Financial Institutions Conference on Thursday, which focused on the theme Increasing Household Investment in the Renewable Energy: How the Financial Sector Can Help.
The event was jointly hosted by the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Services Commission.
William Hinds, Chief Energy Conservation Officer in the Ministry of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said, “Certainly, Barbadians have been responding.
Barbadians have been responding in more significant numbers,” said Hinds.
“In fact, during the first year of this pandemic, we have had more persons wanting to invest and a greater interest both by large investors and householders. Barbadian householders are beginning to realize more and more, that this is not just an opportunity to invest but it is an opportunity to make better profits than just leaving your money on the bank,” he explained.
With the island’s fuel import bill still hovering between $500 and $800 million annually, Williams said it will be up to everyone to help drive down that price tag and build out the renewable energy sector to help the island achieve its goal of 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy sources by 2033.
“It is not just each of us in our various government departments that have to reach out to more people. What we are saying to you is that you who have been successful as an individual in putting solar on your house should reach out to your neighbours. It takes a village,” he said.
Cori King, Manager of the Resource Centre at the Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd., said while the build-out of the renewable energy sector got off to a slow start over a decade ago, by 2016/2017 there was an uptick in activities, especially among householders.
“Certainly over the last two to three years, we can definitely say there has been more interest simply based on the numbers we are seeing and persons actually installing more systems. This is both on the commercial and residential, but there are definitely more residential customers over the last two to three years,” said King.
“In some cases, I would say it is almost exponential and I think a lot of that is based on when the FIT (feed-in-tariff) and the RER (renewable energy rider) were introduced.
Certainly, when the FIT was introduced, we did see a spike. So definitely governmental policy has enabled those persons to really get on board,” he said.
The FIT, which was introduced in 2019, is a mechanism that allows energy producers to sell their energy to the BL&P with a firm guarantee for their investment. It replaced the contentious RER programme, which started in 2010.
While welcoming the increased interest in the sector, Aidan Rogers, Second Vice President of the Barbados Sustainable Energy Cooperative Society, said there was still a lot more to be done to help the island achieve its ambitious renewable energy goals.
In fact, he said he would encourage individuals to invest in larger projects even as they invest in systems for their homes.
“There is a lot of space . . . We still have a lot of ground to cover on those personal investments where the householders, the neighbourhoods can benefit. But there is another layer that is now being introduced as you would have to make these rapid, larger scale, investments going forward to 2030.
We do not want the average citizen to be left behind. So you can install a system on your roof, but you can also invest in a larger project to have more long-term returns,” he explained.
Rogers said credit unions being restricted in the amount it was able to put in a single investment, he believed the renewable energy sector presented an ideal opportunity for them to put some of their cash.