By Cathy Lashley
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- The government of Barbados is stepping up its efforts to develop a large renewable energy sector to significantly reduce the vulnerability of this country to high oil prices, including diesel and fuel oil, with a major focus on electricity generation and usage.
This was pointed out by Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Energy, Senator Darcy Boyce, as he delivered the feature address at the opening of a new manufacturing facility by Solaris Global Energy Limited on Saturday.
In fact, so serious is government that some 25,000 street lights will be retrofitted with more efficient light-emitting diodes (LED) lighting over a five-year period beginning next year, and as part of a pilot project, energy efficient lighting and power monitors will be distributed for a nominal cost to 3,000 electricity customers. Boyce explained that this was an effort to monitor ways to save electricity and the financial benefits that the customer could gain by so doing.
He made it clear that as a result of the consistently high price of oil, Barbados had to take steps to save foreign exchange. To this end, he said the country would be trying to meet approximately 30 percent of its electricity generation from renewable energy including wind, solar photovoltaics (PV), waste-to-energy and biomass by the year 2029. In fact, he said efforts were ongoing to reach that objective "five years earlier than currently planned".
"To the extent that we achieve this target, to that same degree we will reduce our vulnerability to high oil prices as they affect the price we have to pay for electricity. Already, the government has embarked on a small programme to install 19 pilot solar photovoltaic systems on schools and community facilities. A similar programme of larger PV [photovoltaics] systems on major government buildings will start next year," he added.
He stressed that Barbados's future depended on its ability to use energy more efficiently, noting that studies done by Inter-American Development Bank consultants estimated that this country could save approximately 20 percent of its electricity needs through energy efficiency.
"That analysis also indicates that it would be easier and faster for us to reduce our economy's dependence on fossil fuel for electricity generation by adopting energy efficient practices. Such improvement in the efficiency with which the country uses electricity would also increase the competitiveness of business and industry in the country, with beneficial results for all of us," he noted.
In light of this, Boyce said that government, working with such stakeholders as the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited, would develop an industry-by-industry plan for improving the energy efficiency of the industries in the country, with "full-throttle implementation of those plans" expected to start before the middle of 2013.
In addition, he stressed that government would be leading by example and had already agreed to start the first phase of its own major energy saving programme in major government buildings within that timeframe.
Moreover, he added that since a third of this country's fuel imports went into the transportation sector, next year's work would begin on pilots to demonstrate the feasibility of greater efficiency in energy usage in various parts of the transportation sector, to see "how we can meet more of the sector's energy usage from local sources".
"These initiatives in renewable energy and energy efficiency on which we have embarked will enable us over the time frame indicated to reduce Barbados' annual need for foreign exchange to purchase fuel. They will also, in time, enable us to get a lower cost for electricity and to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of our country," he noted.
Solaris Global Energy manufactures solar water heaters for domestic and commercial use for the local, regional and international markets.