As Barbados continues its quest to become fully reliant on renewable energy sources by 2032, one engineering expert is suggesting that the lack of a clear plan that outlines the opportunities for individuals to invest could pose a challenge.
Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Browne, president of the Barbados Sustainable Energy Cooperative Society Ltd., explained that having a clear plan outlining various procedures, and offering approvals for projects “almost automatically” could make a major difference in people rushing to invest in the sector and the country achieving its goal within the timeframe outlined.
He said given the current low interest rate being offered on savings and the billions of dollars sitting in the commercial banking system, he was expecting more people to invest in the renewable energy sector to get “fairly significant returns on investment for an extended period in an extremely secure environment”.
However, Browne argued that with investment in the sector “not flowing” as one would expect, perhaps the challenge was “the unclear opportunity for investment”.
“I would like to suggest that the elephant in the room, really, is that we are missing an overall comprehensive design and plan for what is a very complex engineering project that this country is undertaking. This is something that is first by world standards and it is complex engineering to change your basic energy system from fossil to renewable.
“This weakness in not having a clear and definable plan is typified in the multiple steps and processes that are currently needed to authorize the disjointed projects that we are seeing and is putting pressure on the financing houses to actually get behind these projects because each sub-project is now needing full approval almost as though it was a fully comprehensive project.
“In the normal engineering world what happens is that there would be a broad overall design plan that everybody understands, and then this would be broken down into clear components, in which case approvals and starting programmes would be almost automatic because we would all know where we are,” he explained.
Browne agreed that Barbados’ transition to a 100 per cent sustainable renewable energy island presented an “extremely attractive opportunity for financial benefits, substantial cost savings at the national level and most importantly, improvements in the environment”.
Adding that he was “very happy” to hear that everyone seemed to be on board with the build-out of the renewable energy sector, Browne also recommended that the Government outline how Barbadians will continue to benefit even after the country has achieved its goal.
Browne, who is also the president of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers, was speaking during a session of the recent 7th Caribbean Sustainable Energy Forum (CSEF).
“From the cooperative perspective, the real financing challenge that we face is actually the end game of this project. In other words, when the whole thing is up and running and successful, how do we ensure the sustainable status? By that sustainable status, I talk about the ongoing ownership and benefits to Barbados. We know too well in Barbados of examples of outstandingly successful projects that no longer produce benefits primarily to Barbados. We think that the situation with energy is far too important to undergo that challenge,” said Browne. (MM)