The push towards making Barbados into a green energy nation in the next decade, took a major step today with the Prime Minister laying out an “ambitious” but “doable” road map to the 2030 goal, according to key observers who gave cautious support for the initiative.
She also set new milestones to 2030, declaring her intention to lift caps on the level of electricity from renewable sources in the national grid a mere week after they were announced.
“I can say without fear of contradiction, that this Government will move that cap,” she told a national conference on sustainable energy at the Hilton. “The question for us is whether it will go to 100 megawatts or 200 megawatts.”
The current limit, set by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), is 32.7 MW from a mix of solar photovoltaic panels and wind turbines.
She also announced her administration plans to quadruple the one megawatt total limit on the feed-in-tariff (FIT) through which individuals and companies provide electricity to the national grid from renewable sources. The announcement came one week after the FTC set the one-megawatt limit.
Declaring that she had enough time to reflect on the FTC’s recent decision on the feed-in-tariff, Mottley said: “A cap of [32.7] megawatts is miniscule in comparison to what we need to have in order to move this economy forward and to meet the sustainable goals that we are setting for 2030”.
The Prime Minister insisted that the time for talk is simply over and it was time for urgent action if Barbados was to achieve its target of being 100 per cent dependent on renewable forms of energy by 2030.
Mottley told the Barbados Sustainable Energy Conference that with oil prices rising once again, her administration was not prepared to allow Barbados to be “held to ransom to the vagaries of international economic shocks with respect to oil prices”.
She said: “It is against that background that the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Commerce that is responsible for the FTC (Financial Services Commission), and the FTC itself, must have an urgent consultation over the course of the next two weeks to be able to decide a few things.”
Last week, the FTC announced a FIT for renewable energy technologies up to one MW, granting individuals and businesses a combined maximum total capacity of 32.7 MW effective Monday, October 1 to December 31, 2021, or until that capacity was reached, whichever comes first.
To have those capacities increased, Mottley said she also wanted the Canadian-owned electric utility company at the table for the consultation, adding: “We will not strand investment, but equally we do not have the luxury of sitting down and waiting and taking small steps in a world that is now confronted by an existential threat that literally goes to the essence of who we are and whether we will survive this crisis”.
“This Government will not be a victim that is helpless to the climate crisis. As a result, I am calling not on the Government officials alone, but I am now calling on all Barbadians to join us in this effort because this is truly the battle of our lives”
The one-day conference, dubbed Roadmap to 2030, brought together key players in the energy industry to discuss a number of measures aimed at making Barbados 100 per cent renewable energy-dependent by the year 2030, and examine possible funding options.
In swift reaction from the floor of the conference, renewable energy advocates welcomed the roadmap as ambitious but doable.
Welcoming the Prime Minister’s plans to raise the new feed-in-tariff limits and generation capacity, the vice president of the Barbados Renewable Energy Association Aidan Rogers told Barbados TODAY that members of his organization had realised that there was need for more capacity.
He said there was a lot of interest especially in the installation of photovoltaic systems, adding that several individuals were “pursing licences for systems above one megawatt”.
Rogers said: “All in all we think this is positive movement and what we have seen from this Government is that there is a greater sense of alacrity in terms of trying to get things pushed ahead to meet this target. It is an ambitious target but we think it is absolutely necessary.”
In relation to the FIT, the BREA executive said last week’s decision by the FTC was an “evolutionary step”, but said there were different views in the country as to whether the capacity limit should be higher.
“So the notion that yes, the capacity should have been higher, there is some validity to that, but there also needs to be a balance in terms of tempering reliability,” he cautioned.
Mottley also called on all Barbadians to play a part in ensuring the island achieve its 2030 renewable energy goal, by switching from diesel and gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles.
“As it relates to electric vehicles we see this as an important part of the market development and expansion,” he added.
Describing the suggestion as a “no-brainer”, the nation’s largest importer of electric vehicles, industrialist Ralph Bizzy Williams said he welcomed Government’s position.
He touted several benefits, including that powering up the electric vehicles cost only a third of what it cost to fill a gas or diesel engine and that there was very little expenditure for maintenance.
“So it is a no-brainer. It may be a little bit more expensive to buy, but you save the money in the long run,” said Williams, whose Megapower pioneered the sale of electric vehicles here four years ago.
In relation to the overall energy plan to have the island 100 per cent reliant on renewable forms of energy by 2030, Williams told Barbados TODAY “it is doable if everybody gets on board”.
He said: “But there are a lot of naysayers in Barbados. We just need to get them on board. I have been talking about this for a long time. What we have to do is persuade the blockers to stop blocking and to actually accept the message that the Government is giving and that we are giving and work towards the solution. It is doable.”
He said while he welcomed the planned increase in the amount of energy individuals and businesses would provide to the grid, he wanted to see battery storage being a part of the plan, which should be managed by the electric utility company.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley described the plan as ambitious, adding that it would require an aggressive approach.
He also called for the bureaucracy in Government to be removed if the roadmap is to become a reality. He also urged Government to ensure that there was not a “monopoly interest” or an exclusion of those who wish to invest on a smaller scale.
Atherley told Barbados TODAY: “So I don’t have a problem with the desired goal.
“My concern would be the brevity of the timeline involved and whether or not we can really achieve that revolution to the extent we propose to do. If we can, it will redound to the benefit of Barbados.”
Atherley suggested that the green energy push will need the full support of the private sector.