EDITORIAL: Renewable energy a hope for stability
RENEWABLE energy has the potential to give more impetus to Barbados’ economic prospects and this recognition ought to be the driving force behind Government’s policy-making where energy is concerned.
It is usually acknowledged that foreign reserves keep the pulse of the economy beating. However, energy, as this country and others have witnessed over the course of the last 40 years, can either make or break an economy. The evidence is quite clear as assessments of Barbados’ progress over the years has shown. At the time of the first energy crisis in the mid-1970s the island felt the ripple effect of galloping inflation and, among other things, the increasing costs to business from higher priced imported inputs. In between then and up to about 2007, similar patterns also existed. However, the year 2008 saw oil prices rising to almost US$150 a barrel and that had countries reeling from the impact of that situation.
Prices have slackened off considerably, but that scenario has given governments the opportunity to look for alternative sources of energy to eventually shield their citizens and their economies in this fast paced world, where competitiveness is very much the watchword in how things are done and how countries trade with each other.
We can go further by looking next door at both Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, which experienced massive inflows of petro-dollars when oil prices were high, and setbacks when they were low, as is the case right now. Soon, the prices will once again rise and those who relished the lower costs will most likely find the going rough depending on how high the prices reach.
Renewable energy in Barbados therefore, is seen as an option to confront the unstable behavior of fossil fuels. Although there remains some hiccups, the sector in Barbados has started to take shape. The introduction and passage of appropriate legislation like the Electric Light and Power Act in 2013 is a plus. Initiatives undertaken by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) that include giving support to the Renewable Energy Rider, and setting tariffs for sale of surplus electricity generated from solar panels to the grid, have given some measure of satisfaction to individuals and companies investing in renewables.
One of the drawbacks however is that government appears not to be moving fast enough in this area. This has given speculation that some of the overall targets like reducing the level of fossil fuel dependency by at least 50 per cent by the year 2025, might prove elusive. One however cannot deny that driving around Barbados it is very common to see several solar panels on homes and business places as the same individuals and companies try to benefit from renewables. Quite a few new investments have come on stream, the latest announced two weeks ago by Enermax. We must also make special mention of the work being done by the Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA). BREA has maintained that there is need for an enabling environment for the renewable energy sector. It has kept the country informed about the possibilities and the way ahead for the sector once Government sorts out what needs to be done.
We think that with a flourishing renewable energy sector, the cost of operations for businesses will be lower, which will make Barbados more competitive.