A decade-and-a-half ago, one could have argued that there was not enough emphasis being placed on alternative energy in this country. While we had long developed and perhaps exhausted the solar water heater industry, not much else had been done to push the idea of renewable energy. But with dwindling
reserves we saw international oil prices begin to skyrocket some years back, going well above $100 a barrel, and with that came efforts across the world and certainly in this country to try something new – renewable energy, in particular solar energy.
Those efforts bore fruit in the early days, but one has to question if the country is really getting the most out of the solar energy sector or the renewable energy sector in general. It is our firm belief that Barbados can truly be a leader in this area, and just as we have solar water heaters on practically every rooftop, we do not feel it is too ambitious to think of having photovoltaic systems on every roof as well to generate electricity.
We must consider this even more so now with the changing oil environment within the Caribbean and the wider world. Here in the region we are to soon see the Trinidad’s state oil firm Petrotrin close off its oil refining business, and while Guyana has recently discovered a fossil fuel repository, there is no telling what the cost of oil will be by the time that oil hits the market, which at present is projected to be 2020.
Admittedly, the cost of a photovoltaic system is right now quite high; but certainly as the technology becomes more widely used, the cost should drop and allow even the average Barbadian to invest in one. Without a doubt, these systems are guaranteed to eventually generate power at a rate that is cheaper than Barbadians currently pay, and if they can be introduced and used on a wider scale, it will not only have a positive impact on their pockets, but the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Given the challenges we have faced in recent times with low foreign exchange reserves, below the accepted international benchmark, this would be welcome.
As such, we are advocating for our country to make more effective use of solar power, take steps towards promoting other forms of renewable energy, and energy conservation among Barbadians. While oil prices remain manageable today, there is no guarantee that those prices are to stay, especially with the active hurricane season we are right now experiencing. Projections are that the price – now at $80 a barrel – will likely climb by the end of the week once Hurricane Florence makes her way across the United States’ East Coast. These are realities we must face and recognise the need to build up our resilience to these external shocks.
In addition to saving much needed foreign, we can also reduce our contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions, as small as it may be. The sun’s power is limitless and as a country we have an infinite number of possibilities to explore using that energy option to power our businesses and homes. We hope going forward to see it being utilised in all government offices and private sector entities, and we commend those private sector organisations which in recent times have constructed their buildings with green energy in mind and those which have retrofitted their buildings.
In her mini-Budget earlier this year, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said it is her Government’s belief that there are considerable growth opportunities in the renewable energy sector, and we agree. She spoke to that as she announced that any new buses to be acquired will either be electric or use clean energy, and this we believe is also a step in the right direction and indeed we hope to see it come to fruition.