We used to think that the greatest windfall that a country could experience was to find oil in commercial quantities, and we all envied Trinidad’s status as CARICOM’s only oil exporter.
However, technology has now evolved to the point where the entire Caribbean, and sunny countries everywhere, have much better prospects than oil producers do: we can produce all the power we need from renewable energy sources, and unlike oil, supplies will never run out.
In Barbados’ case we can generate all the electricity the country could possibly need from solar and wind energy.
This second issue of EI.bb examines the state of Barbados’ renewable energy sources and our standing in this sector, as we move headlong into our 21st year.
For example, we explore the solar and wind generation on the island and find that had both those forms of energy been fully in place in 2015, Barbados would have saved $209 million in fuel imports. If, in addition, all cars, buses, trucks, construction machinery, etc. were powered exclusively by electricity, we would have saved another $182 million and in all, we would have reduced our import bill by 15 percent. (In 2014, with higher oil prices, fuels were 20 percent of all imports.)
The money we would have saved could have been used to invest in new hotels or infrastructure. It would have increased investment by over 50 percent and might have created hundreds of new jobs. The overall impact on the economy would have been to raise our economic growth rate from about one percent (Central Bank’s revised estimate), to more than five percent. In the Caribbean growth league tables, Barbados would have been number one in 2015.
What stands between us and this beckoning future is the investment that must be made in solar photovoltaics, wind generators, storage facilities and power distribution. In addition, all gasoline and diesel powered vehicles would need to be phased out in favour of electric vehicles.
Our Prime Minister has committed Government to the 100 percent renewable energy strategy, and what remains is to provide the additional incentives and support needed to accelerate the required investment.
We have already made a promising start in the direction of energy independence. Individuals and businesses have taken advantage of fiscal incentives to install solar PV systems in increasing numbers, and the Barbados Light & Power Co. Ltd. has inaugurated a solar farm in St Lucy.
In this issue you will read more about our wind capacity, and about the purely electric cars which are now on Barbados’ roads, thanks to the remarkable enterprise of Megapower.
Permission is awaited for the installation of wind generators by private companies and options are being actively considered for storage of energy sufficient to drive the grid at night and when there is no wind.
All this can be done with systems that are tried and proven, and we have studies available which demonstrate how these systems can be combined in a way to satisfy 100 percent of our country’s needs, with fuel that is in abundance, free of cost and that will never run out.
Meteorologists tell us that Barbados enjoys eight to nine hours of sunshine daily, all year round; that sunlight provides every home in the country with more energy than it could ever use for all our needs for electric power, cooking and transportation. Unfortunately, most of that energy comes in the form of heat, which cannot be easily converted to a form that is useable for any purpose other than heating water.
As recently as five years ago, it was so expensive to convert sunshine to electricity that the average middle income household could not seriously contemplate doing so.
This edition will show how that has changed dramatically in the last few years, with the introduction locally of affordable photovoltaic systems for households.
Barbadians can now buy a system that will supply the entire electricity needs of one household, reducing the average monthly payment to BL&P to little or nothing, for less than half the price of a new standard-sized four door family sedan.
Barbados now has the attractive prospect of doubling its economic growth potential over the longer term, by working towards the goal of supplying 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources.
The technology is proven, Government and the power company are committed to the development of renewables and a very encouraging start has been made, with solar photovoltaics and plug-in electric vehicles.
After reading this issue, we hope you see the light – the sunlight – the same way that we do.