Barbadian will have to tarry a while longer for the decision from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) on whether Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) request for a rate hike will be approved. Yesterday the FTC directed the BL&P to revise some assumptions downward used in calculations presented to support the rate hike application. Although it is premature for consumers to assume which way the win is blowing from the current stage of proceedings, it seems reasonable to assume the hike if approved will not be as significant as originally forecast.
The angst being generated at the prospect of a hike in electricity rates should move the government and Barbadians to appreciate the importance of implementing an effective national energy policy. After many years of talk by successive governments about transforming the Barbados space to one where renewable energy sources are prioritized, it seems we continue to labour to get over the hump in the quest for a relevant mix. It does not take a rocket scientist to anticipate the negative effect on inflation accepting that Barbados is a price taker. It seems the majority of Barbadians are oblivious to the fact a significant percent of what we consume is imported. We buy and sell and the rich merchants live fat off the profit margin.
In recent weeks the country has been consumed with the news about an IDB/Barbados government survey administered by some schools to 11 year olds without the consent of parents. Yesterday Member of Parliament for St. Michael North West Neil Rowe was charged with rape and is scheduled to appear in Court this morning to formally answer to the charge. Not to forget his month the number of murders surpassed prior year.
These issues should not make us lose focus of the perilous state of the economy. Despite the narratives being pushed by talking heads about improved credit ratings, reduced debt and the security blanket BERT II affords, there is reality that has not changed. The Barbados economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism and to a lesser degree international business. How many Barbadians are aware there is a negative outlook for the global economy by the IMF for 2023 with growth predicted to slow to 2.7%? To quote the IMF – “2023 will feel like a recession for millions around the world”.
Two items of news reported in traditional media in the last 48 hours attracted the attention of the blogmaster. The first report in the Nation newspaper with the title – ‘Strong Concerns’ about BL&P call– highlighted a concern by lawyer Tricia Watson about the BL&P asking for a rate increase and accused them of hiding information from the public according to the news report.
The blogmaster has no issue with Watson and her recent prosecution of the BL&P on the airwaves about the request for a rate increase. In fact we need more public spirited citizens getting involved to advocate on the many issues that affect us. It is after all a key element to ensuring a healthy democracy.
However, of interest after listening to Tricia Watson on VOB’s Brasstacks and reading the newspaper report, a question came to mind. Why did Watson think it necessary to come to the public to air concerns? The law governing a rate review hearing must be a public affair and all sides will have an opportunity to present positions under the oversight of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), the regulator. Notwithstanding there is always the opportunity to educate a public about a highly technical matter – the blogmaster’s concern stands.
An explanation of the role of the FTC posted to the website mandates the Financial Services Commission Act (2010) assures John public the FTC has a duty to fairly weigh positions presented by the company (BL&P) and intervenors (Tricia Watson is an intervenor) with the support of subject matter of experts. The verbal darts being exchanged in public raises the unsubstantiated view held by the blogmaster that there is an element of distrust in the system by those representing the people.
The other news item of interest addressed declining car sales on the island. The official in the Barbados Today article titled – Car sales continue to be a struggle says senior executive – lamented car sales were beginning to pick up until the Russia/Ukraine conflict intervened to forestall.
Barbados is a country struggling with a bad economy that has not recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis. In recent years it has been hammered by Hurricane Elsa, volcanic ash from Mount Soufriere, Covid 19 to name the ‘biggies’. Why in heavens name is the leadership of the country doing nothing to restructure and make the transportation system more efficient? Is the blogmaster wrong in thinking what exists is unsustainable?
The importation of food and fuel are responsible for soaking up significant amount of scarce foreign exchange. Citizens continue to be afflicted with excuses from government regarding the pace at which electric vehicles are being introduced to the market. Daily NEW fossil burning vehicles bearing ML plates (government owned vehicles) are seen bouncing around the island. Why are we letting another crisis to go to waste?
Where there is No Vision, There is no Hope
George Washington Carver
In summary, we need to ensure agencies responsible for representing citizens do so in a matter that nurtures trust between all actors in civil society. The blogmaster is reminded of the sudden resignation without explanation to the people of former minister Ronald Toppin. With well over 130,000 vehicles on the roads, where they hell are we going?
The following was pulled from former Governor DeLisle Worrell’s website (thanks Amit) – David, blogmaster
Dr. DeLisle Worrel
In an informed front page editorial on November 25, the Barbados Advocate had this to say about the power outage crisis in Barbados: “[Emera, the Canadian parent of the Barbados Light and Power Company] chose to invest in Barbados, acquiring control of the sole generator and provider of electricity, a private sector entity with an aging generation plant and distribution system. … [the] company.. was looking at a replacement programme for that generation plant, but was informed by the previous Government that they were going to lose nearly half of their generation business to renewable energy [RE] projects coming on stream from new investors within a few years. In the end, this never happened.
“Additionally, they were then told, when the present Government took office, that by 2030, all generation must be RE, and that other RE investors would be permitted.”
“… the single most important criteria in attracting investment is certainty, and these Government interventions surely created a lot of uncertainty for them. New generation capacity is a significant and long term investment, so we cannot fault Emera in their decision to be cautious, and look at investing to extend the life of the existing equipment, faced with these various Government commitments. Generation capacity equipment looks at a 25-30 year life for cost recoupment…”
What is needed to create certainty for investors is a practical, consistent policy document on alternative energy, with realistic targets and an action plan for tracking progress. This document should clarify the government’s target for renewables. Is it to generate all electricity from renewable sources, or to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels? Neither of these objectives can now be attained by 2030. The BL&P has now ordered a new 33 MW generating plant which runs on fossil fuel, and which will still be in full operation in ten years’ time. In addition, most of the gasoline and diesel powered vehicles imported this year will still be on the roads in 2030.
Government’s RE policy document must also be clear on the chosen mix of technologies to be used in achieving the RE target. While solar PV is already in place and approval has been given for the first wind turbines, the expected contributions of biofuels and waste-to-energy remain uncertain. Government Ministers have also spoken of ocean thermal, offshore wind and other technologies which are not commercially feasible at the present time. If they are to be part of the mix, the target date will be pushed even further into the future. Also, no decision has been announced on energy storage options.
Government’s RE strategy document must include a timeline for bringing tax policy in line with the renewable energy target. Government Ministers admit publicly that the tax on imported electric vehicles is inconsistent with the RE target. There are no tax concessions or fiscal incentives for independent power producers; at least one potential investor in wind turbines has given up in frustration after failing to secure planning permission after years of effort.
The replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources has the potential to transform the Barbadian economy, saving foreign exchange, liberating the country from oil price fluctuations, and creating new jobs and income. However, the changeover will not happen on its own; it must be guided by a fully informed, expertly crafted strategy document, with realistic targets, and an action plan for implementation. The policy document must be clear on the RE technologies to be adopted, and government must be clear on its own role, and on the incentives to be provided to private investors and energy users. The action plan must include intermediate targets and deadlines at 3-5 year intervals, with indicators for Government, investors and users, to make sure the programme stays on track.
The power outage crisis is a warning that a practical, fully informed strategy document with realistic guidelines, responsibilities and monitoring, is now of the highest priority.
Is it the fertile imagination of this blogmaster the urgency to implement an aggressive alternative energy strategy has gone off the boil since the Mottley government has taken office? All sensible people are supportive of an aggressive adoption of such a strategy for the several benefits discussed on BU’s pages and elsewhere. What is the latest?
According to former Governor DeLilse Worrell’s newsletter, aggressive renewable energy adoption can help restore the economy.
– David, blogmaster
Reproduced with permission, the full text of Dr. Delisle Worrell – former Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados – September 2019 newsletter:
Wind and solar power offer an exciting prospect of rapid growth and energy independence to a sunny island like Barbados, set out in the Atlantic in the path of the dependable trade winds. However, a focused, all-encompassing national strategy is required, if we are to have any chance of realizing the vision of energy independence. Our Government should provide a road map to take us to the goal of 100 percent renewables, around which it should build a national consensus in favour of a strategy to achieve this goal. The road map would spell out the benefits of energy independence, and the main structures and systems that would have to be put in place to make the dream a reality. Once there is nationwide agreement on the goal and the things needed to achieve it, an action plan and timetable would be needed to monitor and report to the nation on progress towards the goal.
Thanks to recent improvements in the efficiency and affordability of solar and wind energy generation, Barbados now has the potential to double its GDP in less than two decades. Barbados’ abundant sunshine and reliable trade winds have become a more valuable resource than reserves of oil and gas could ever be. As the late Professor Oliver Headley once famously said: “The sun will still be shining when the oil runs out”. Technical studies by leading experts in the field show how Barbados can supply all of its current power needs with a combination of solar, wind and biogas, with an eco-friendly power storage system. A great deal of solar has already been installed and we have an idea where wind turbines might best be sited. We also have a report on the elements, technical, regulatory and financial, that would have to be sustained over a period of 15 years, to achieve 100 percent renewables.
The Barbados economy, which currently remains in the doldrums, could be revived to growth rates of 5 percent or more, with the implementation of a comprehensive action plan for 100 percent renewables, provided the island’s competitive weaknesses are addressed. With a 5 percent growth rate, our GDP would double in about 15 years and future prosperity would be assured. As I have said elsewhere, the reform of the public sector would serve to restore and enhance Barbados’ international competitiveness and attract new investment in tourism, international business and other quality products. That alone should provide growth of around 2 1/2 percent. The switch from fossil fuels to renewable sources of power adds to growth directly through investment in renewables and the acquisition of new skills and services. In addition, the savings from reduction in fuel imports increase every year, until the entire amount now spent on fuel is available for expansion of other activities. Investment in renewables plus foreign exchange savings could together add 3 percent or more to the growth rate, for an overall rate in excess of 5 percent.
@BU David, may i suggest a blog on REnewable energy. it is a longer term focus but it is a good “RE” with almost guaranteed payback.
With the trade wars between China and US adding pressure plus USA potential backlash on any country buying Iranian crude; the price of crude oil is 70+ on the world market and rising. That is having a big impact on Barbados and our economic prospects e.g. tourism; and the energy we consume to provide services on the rock etc. Barbados runs on fossil fuels for the most part.
In the medium term will BNOC be able to get its crude processed if PetroTrin closes it refinery?
Some credit must be given to the former government and a few private sector players for developing the renewable energy sector. One of the few good initiatives the former administration may lay claim.
The benefits of diversifying the energy sector is huge for Barbados given the high consumption of fossil energy which has to be paid for with scarce foreign exchange we have been struggling to earn. Just look at the international reserves trendline of the last decade.
Barbados is described by the economists as an open economy most vulnerable to exogenous shocks to coin a term. It is not an export led economy therefore Barbados has to be ultra aggressive in rolling out initiatives like Renewable Energy to act as a buffer against the volatility of price movement in the oil market.
One of the reasons Prime Minister Mottley gave for allowing the country to slip into selected default (SD) was her concern that – as the hurricane season was upon us – if struck, it would precipitate a level of economic chaos given the falling foreign exchange reserves and high debt obligations to external creditors. She sought to get ahead of the the potential problem by negotiating debt restructuring with creditors. This was her call given her government’s 30 love mandate. Time will tell if it works out.
The BU community is insisting that she demonstrates a similar level of passion and leadership towards continuing to implement a relevant REnewable Energy program given the size of the national oil bill and the forex savings to be had supported by the need to diversify our energy supply. The environmentalists and others with commonsense might suggest it is a good ‘fit’ for a SID to adopt a clean energy strategy. We also have developments in Trinidad and Venezuela to be urgent about implementing a sensible energy policy.
No long term economic stabilization and economic plan for Barbados can be constructed without including a smart strategy approach to energy policy. Successive governments have adopted a lazy approach to deconstructing the oil sector given the money interest. EMERA, SOL, RUBIS need we say more? It is easy to tax the sector to prop up the treasury while prominent others are always able to influence the decisions of government in theirnarrow interest.
Ministers Wilfred Abrahams and Kirk Humphrey have been trusted with the responsibility for energy AND the Blue economy respectively. To date Abrahams has been consumed with plugging the holes in a leaking sewage line on the South Coast and Humphrey has been prolific in his visits to fish markets around the island while wearing nice suits. Time to leave those tasks to the others gentlemen and become more strategic to align with the pressing demands of state.The photo ops approach did not work for Esther Byer-Suckoo.
Mia Mottley has set the bar for her large Cabinet and supporting cast as to what is required. It is clear to the blogmaster who does not sit in Cabinet that she has done a reasonable job to articulate her vision for Barbados becoming ‘fit for purpose’ in quick time if we are avoid rivalling Zimbabawe in a race to the bottom.
This week a radio commentator made the observation that if there is credit this government has earned it has to be implementing policy to encourage the installation of photovoltaic systems by the retail and commercial customer. BU agrees with a caveat.
Based on observation the biggest consumers of electricity in Barbados must be the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) and the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) and other government departments. The acid test if the blogmaster is to give full credit to the government- the level of conversion from fossil to alternative energy by the greatest users must the key measure. The current conversion level suggest our biggest users are not fully converted, as a consequence there will be no material impact on fossil energy usage in Barbados any time in the near future.
If simple net metering was permitted, even for systems under five kilowatts, utility interactive RE systems with limited battery storage would be quite affordable. Back-feeding the grid during daytime and purchasing in the evenings would allow fewer batteries to be maintained for energy security while also reducing cycling and extending battery life.
We have three types of RE at our home. Grid tied, utility interactive (battery based) and off-grid. The off grid does not even have a battery as its a pond pump which operates only when the sun is shining on the PV. Critical appliances like our refrigerator, auxiliary water pump, lights, fans and entertainment centre were not affected by yesterdays power outage. And without the noise, fumes, maintenance and fuel requirements of a standby generator.
The preamble to the blog is a response to the BWA’s statement how the island wide power outage impacted their operations. To quote Joy-Ann Haigh, the Rapid Response and Communications Manager at the BWA:-
It impacted us a lot, because the pumping stations do rely heavily on the Barbados Light & Power. The tankers this morning, as a result, they have been dispatched. Of course, we needed to make sure that the emergency services were OK and then the schools, today being the first day of school for most and then everyone else afterward. Almost immediately after the power failed many, many areas lost mains water.
To BU’s way of 101 thinking, if one of the the biggest expense items on the P&L is the BL&P energy bill, a decision should have been taken ‘everysince’ to aggressively migrate to alternative energy systems to run the operations. For the BWA spokesperson to have to publicly admit that the power outage on Monday adversely impacted operations and forced them to freight water by truck Flintstones style was as embarrassing as shit running on the South Coast in the year of our Lord 2017.
Why build a 60 million dollar building and there are no backup generators? Bear in mind the question is being asked of our water utility. Many retail consumers see the need to integrate backup power systems in homes these days which makes it a nobrainer for our water authority.
On a related note, it is also unacceptable the downtime Barbados had to experience given our reported level of investment in power generation and distribution.
Barbados Light & Power wind farm project at Lambert’s Plantation abandoned.
While prices are still somewhat out of the reach of the ordinary Barbadian, there are reportedly in excess of 7000 such installations in private homes now in existence here on the island. That figure scares the living daylights out of the Canadian swine who own BL&P. Its interesting to note that Canadian interest own over 35% of the Barbados economic engine including almost all of our local banks, and they do some of the most vile things here to people. Things they couldn’t dream of doing in Canada.
Back to the deployment of these PV systems. If the current growth keeps pace for the next 5 years, Barbados could see almost 65% of its energy generated by an alternative to fossil fuels. That will translate into a humongous savings in the importation of oil and reduce significantly our foreign exchange pay outs from the country. Problem there is, if PV starts to takes root in that manner, some political animal wont get a kick back and that to them is scary. That said, Barbados was involved in the harnessing of Solar Energy for years. Albeit to heat water. If this industry was seen as viable, had a real champion to drive it, and got some seed finding, we may have been producing solar cells and panels by now.
However late this may or may not be now, we need to start legislating that some percentage of the energy produced and consumed here, is “green”. That means that BL&P had to become compliant with that proclamation, or GO!
Sir Neville Nicholls – Chairman of Securities Exchange Commission – August 8, 2013 ruling, the FTC determined that the distributed intermittent renewable energy generation shall be increased to seven megawatts
The rapid deployment of PV in recent times has taken many by surprise. This is because its true potential has been consistently underestimated by policy makers, planners and industry participants alike. But while this is no longer the case, all we can now hope for is that industry stakeholders recognize the major challenges – technological, policy and regulatory – that must be overcome in building out a high level of intermittent renewable capacity.
In their August 8, 2013 ruling, the FTC determined that the distributed intermittent renewable energy generation shall be increased to seven megawatts. At the time of the ruling, there were two hundred PV customers connected to the grid, representing a total of 2.1 MW of capacity. In its long term resource plan, the Barbados Light and Power (BL&P) projected that the 7 MW capacity limit would be fully subscribed by January 2016.This projection was made in February 2014, but fewer than six months would elapse before BL&P informed customers that the approved capacity limit had almost been exhausted..
In BL&P’s plan, which was informed through broad consultations with stake-holders, the company made no further PV growth projections after January 2016. It therefore, came as no great surprise, that there was no further discussion about future of the Renewable Energy Program (RER) or how events would unfold after the 7 MW limit was met. That such omissions could escape the attention of the regulators is quite remarkable, especially since PV roof-top development is touted as an important element in meeting our energy security needs. More importantly, this approved resource plan claims to be the culmination of a process that “considers Barbados’ future power needs and identifies a future portfolio of power generating technologies”.
The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) recently ruled on the motion for review of the billing arrangement and metering option of the Renewable Energy Rider (RER) – see FTC Order and Decision . The RER is a mechanism established by government to facilitate the sale of surplus electricity to the grid supplied by customers with Renewable Energy (RE) systems.
The government of Barbados has committed to facilitate the RE sector as part of sustaining a new economy not overly dependent on traditional economic drivers. The growing energy bill of Barbados and dependence on fossil fuel is a concern. An important strategy therefore is to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework is expertly (sensibly) designed to encourage enthusiastic adoption of RE solutions. Key to a successful RE penetration is aggressive participation by RE providers and confidence by end consumers to embrace RE as a top of mind solution to satisfy energy needs.
For those who have been following the emergence of the local RE sector still at a nascent stage of development, several concerns have been raised by the early adopters. The most recent FTC hearing attracted submissions from CARITEL, Sir Allan Fields, Dick Stoute, Williams Industries, Solar Watt Systems and John Haywards. Visibly absent from the process was a consumer organization. Unfortunately the iterations embedded in the RER ‘decisioning’ process is bound up in technical language which the average Barbadian is inclined to leave to the experts to unravel. There is however a basic level of interest and participation all Barbadians should show as it pertains to the development of a national RE program. We are after all described as an educated and literate group of people.
The BU household is not comprised of the sharpess ‘blackled’ in the case therefore understanding government’s energy diversification strategy after six years in office has become somewhat of a mystery. If it is a key policy measure to restructure the economy we are not ‘feeling’ it.
State entities are the largest consumers of fossil energy in Barbados,. Barbados Water Authority and Grantley Adams Airport come to mind. Why has the government not embarked on an aggressive implementation of solar, wind or combination alternative energy systems at these locations?
At the residential level we have a role to play to conserve and transition to alternative sources but it is always the most sensible approach to grab the quick wins. The apolitical among us understand that energy diversification to mitigate volatility associated with oil price is a sensible approach. All issues in Barbados are converted to being political and amidst the noise of the RE debate any semblance of a nation awakening to the benefit of this issue has been suppressed.
The launch recently of an initiative by a local company to import electric cars provoked a chuckle in the BU household. There is a government endorsed program to conserve energy and to rollout alternative energy initiatives BUT we are importing electric cars to feed from a grid which is fossil powered. BU welcomes the electric and hybrid vehicles BUT how does it merge with the goal of energy diversification?. We need to incent the individual who wants to buy an energy saving vehicle to retrofit the garage to be powered by non fossil power supply.
Brynn O’Reilley, a second year student in the Energy Systems Engineering Technology at St. Lawrence College plugs in an electric vehicle at the launch of the college’s new charging station. (Elliot Ferguson The Whig-Standard)
Now that the outcry over government’s decision to make UWI students pay tuition cost has abated, there is the opportunity to debate the issue unhinged from political rhetoric. Let us keep hope alive!
At a recent address to the CARILEC Renewable Energy Conference Minister of Energy Darcy Boyce stated that although he understands the industry is of national importance, government will not rush policy decisions to impact the stability of the grid. Many have come to appreciate that ‘rushing’ is not a quality which is associated with the Stuart led government. At the same CARILEC conference Caricom Ambassador expressed the view that Barbados has reached a juncture where important decisions have to be made concerning energy production and there was a ‘certain urgency’ required.
Commonsense dictates that government and the regulator should not take decisions to destabilize the EMERA owned sole electric company in Barbados. BU must question whether the minister with responsibility for energy should be the one quoted. Minister Boyce must be perceived by his utterances to be the champion of government’s renewable energy program (RE). There must be no doubt in the minds of members of the public that he is part of a decision making process to rollout RE which is calibrated to the urgency of the times. All Barbadians must feel the weight of importance which the RE program has for Barbados. We must feel his energy!
The late Professor Oliver Headley would be disappointed with the lack of progress in the alternative energy sector were he alive
The Government wants 29% of all electricity consumption to be generated from renewable sources by 2029. That seems ambitious but it is necessary in order for Barbados to help reduce CO2 emissions and help prevent global warming and rises in sea-levels etc.
Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) has been running a pilot study on renewable energy generation for the last couple of years. Under the pilot scheme consumers could install a photo-voltaic panel or wind-power system and get paid for power fed back into the grid.
The Fair Trading Commission has a consultation paper out on the results from the pilot study and the arrangements for the future including what BL&P should pay us for the electricity we generate from renewable systems.
During the two year period of the pilot scheme only 25 customers joined up. That is a tiny percentage of the number of BL&P customers and the response has to call into question the attractiveness of the scheme. If the terms are not made more attractive the Government’s 29% goal would have to be called into question.
BU is disappointed that despite the Barbados economy being gripped in a protracted depressed global economy, the national political debate continues to be about privatization, and of late, the poorakey behaviour unleashed in parliament last week.
BU joins with ordinary Barbadians to suggest worthy topics deserving of national debate:
How do we increase productivity in all sectors?
Making our governance framework more robust
How to more aggressively rollout the renewable solution (including waste to energy)
Amending the education system to align with national priorities
Source funding to build out a framework to drive the cultural and sports industries (national lotteries)
How do we incent consumers to buy hybrids – install renewable energy sources etc, etc, etc.
To debate any of the topics mentioned lends currency to the label that Barbadians are an educated people. And that we are attuned and aligned to what the key strategic priorities are at this juncture in our history. Forget the flowery nation building articles which have started to populate the local press. It is time to get real!