The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers (BAPE) is issuing a stern warning to authorities that unless urgent action is taken to speed up the pace of implementation and clearly outline a solid plan of action, then the hopes of becoming 100 per cent reliant on renewable forms of energy will remain a pipe dream.
In fact, BAPE president Colonel Trevor Browne warned that while the Barbados National Energy Policy is “a brilliant vision” for Barbados’ energy future, there was still “a very wide gap between excellent vision and policy and actual implementation and reality”.
With authorities aiming for an end of 2030 date for Barbados to fully wean itself off the use of fossil fuel, Browne cautioned that if the process was not powered up then the plan could end up like previous projects that were dumped.
“One of the most excellent energy initiatives ever expounded in Barbados was the concept of waste-to-energy, where technology is available to convert solid waste – which now represents a complex, expensive and worsening operational challenge for us as a country, into a valuable energy source to replace imported fossil fuels – another major burden on our economy.
“It is difficult to conceive of a more worthwhile concept than this, that could take two major negatives and create a huge positive for the country. We all know how that ‘great’ vision ended. The concept of building a ‘Four Seasons’ resort on what was literally and figuratively ‘paradise’ also represents a brilliant win-win vision with everything going for it. That too, ended up in disarray.
“BAPE has the unfortunate responsibility to advise that unless urgent and fundamental changes are made to the current progression of the Barbados Sustainable Energy transformation, the brilliant vision of converting Barbados to 100 per cent sustainable energy by 2030 is doomed to join these other outstanding conceptual masterpieces in the recycle bin,” said Browne.
Stating that implementation was “incredibly complicated”, he said it required a deep understanding of all the underlying science and enough experience and technical depth to compensate for the multiple pitfalls and barriers that will inevitably present themselves in any major infrastructural undertaking.
He also expressed concern about the sustainability of the current feed-in-tariff (FIT) arrangement for solar energy, stating that it was likely to negatively impact the revenues of the utility company as more people are added.
“The only source of the utility’s income will then be those who are left without photovoltaic systems. These are likely to be the least able to pay the increased rates required to pay the early investors, and so the scheme will collapse,” he warned.
“Carried to its ultimate logical conclusion, when all Barbadians have installed PV systems on their roofs, and are paying minimum bills and awaiting returns from their FIT contracts, the utility will be required to create money ‘from nothing’ to pay these investors, as well as to cover their own operating expenses. Obviously, investors will lose the income needed to repay their investment loans, and perhaps even lose their loan security, such as their mortgaged homes,” he explained.
Browne said in order to avoid a similar renewable energy saga that occurred in Spain between 2013 and 2018, when that country’s government had to introduce a controversial levy on solar power, Barbados would need proper planning and preparation.
“Proper planning is a process where competent professionals, who not only understand the complex processes involved, but who are professionally bound by ethical standards and performance liability insurance, are commissioned to develop the total project in minute detail, making clear provision for known contingencies. They then devise a logical and defendable long-term implementation and project management process that achieves the successful completion of the vision,” he explained.
He cautioned: “At present, the Barbados energy trajectory is exactly like that followed by Spain. It is also very similar to our experiences with CAHILL and Four Seasons. Those who can afford to, and even some who can’t, are jumping headlong into the ‘vision’ without any clear plan of what the final result will look like. This is a dangerous error.”
“The Barbados Association of Professional Engineers is therefore calling upon those with the awesome responsibility for bringing this transformational initiative to reality, to set out urgently and clearly for all players and end-users alike, the plan and the process by which the Barbados National Energy Policy will be actualized, clearly identifying the various steps and attributed milestones to be achieved along the way. Energy is much too critical to every sector of Barbados, to be allowed to fail for lack of professional planning,” said Browne.