Solar energy right for Bim

I recently became aware that there is to be a consultation among the Barbados Light & Power, the Government, and interested parties, in order to develop guidelines for private installations using solar panels to generate electricity. This is for their own usage and to feed into the grid. I would like to offer a few observations about this process.

The only societal role of a monopoly utility such as BL&P is to supply stable, affordable and reliable power to the community. Other pertinent criteria are: (a) to price their product at a level which allows sufficient long term profit for replacement and upgrading of the existing plant, and; (b) to provide a steady and acceptable return to shareholders.

As the representative of the people of Barbados, Government’s function is to regulate the BL&P so that there is no abuse of its monopoly position. Societies need energy to operate and high energy prices are detrimental to the efficiency of the productive sector and, of course, impact on the discretionary spending of households. Therefore, non-oil producing countries such as Barbados must consider alternative energy production as an urgent national priority.

With the recent availability of small size, individual, affordable installations to produce electricity from solar power, Barbados has a remarkable opportunity to avoid a difficult long term energy dilemma.

Institutional and private solar installations should be actively encouraged — with tax incentives, elimination of import duties, an Office of Technical Support, and encouragement of competition among private sector companies.

Information and PR of the importance of alternative energy should be publicised in all media.

The process for the development of guidelines and policies needs to be open, and seen to be open and co-operative and in a time frame and format which allows participation from diverse interest groups.

The level of payback to private installations by BL&P should encourage investment in household units and add to the discretionary income of households, thereby stimulating the economy. Of course, this should be at a level where BL&P would not be in a loss position.

Individuals with existing installations should not be penalised for having the vision and incentive to be early leaders in this field.

A national network of solar panels will provide significant generating capacity. This would help BL&P reduce and perhaps avoid costly investment to upgrade existing oil-based generating capacity, which may have a limited future.

Many developed countries are actively investing in wind and solar technology. Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, France, China are but a few. Even in Ontario, Canada, with very limited sunshine compared to Barbados, and low cost electricity, solar panels are springing up everywhere in rural locations.

Barbados has been one of the world pioneers in solar water heating, with immense energy savings over many years. Also, effective incentives helped Barbados leap into the Computer Age. The opportunity now exists for initiatives in solar electricity production. All countries have to deal with the onslaught of the technological global economy of the 21st Century. To ignore alternative energy solutions could well leave Barbados high cost, inefficient and uncompetitive, with the risk of declining living standards. — Chris M. Reid;

BA Economic (Cave Hill) and Masters in Environmental Studies (York University, Toronto) / Musician

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