National effort needed
There has been a concerted effort to establish the benefits of electricity produced by alternative energy, including photovoltaics and wind. The Caribbean has also been given grants to expand in this area and a few businesses have developed. All the models suggest that with government subsidies, pay backs of 10 years, depending on the system chosen, can be realised.
The benefits to the end user and the country are not in question, but how do we pay for this at a time when we are going through such tough economic hardships. The country has had to practically borrow money to pay wages but yet we are steaming ahead with a project that calls for substantial foreign exchange.
If the pay backs were within two to three years I am sure the banks would be on board and loans to pay for the facility would be advertised, but at the moment there is hesitance as upgrades to the electrical infrastructure will add to the already high cost of implementation.
A suggestion to finance the national effort since we appear to have committed at all levels is the use of not-so-old bridging technology to finance ourselves out of this situation. Natural gas at its present rate from the National Petroleum Corporation could provide that bridge. Calculated pay backs for using natural gas are within the three years usually comfortable for banks to finance and this can be achieved using the duty free and excise tax free diesel as the base. The pay backs would be faster when compared to the present utility prices.
With the national effort clearly articulated to reduce our dependence on the importation of fossil fuels, our efforts should be:
1. Encouraging further exploration by the Barbados National Oil Company to find natural gas sources.
2. Financing the network of pipes from National Petroleum Corporation to large commercial and industrial complexes (supermarkets and shopping areas) thereby reducing implementation cost of the private sector.
3. Financing packages for natural gas generators and/or air conditioning equipment should be tied to the provision of renewable energy which will reduce the strain on government to provide this financing and would not interfere with grants already in place for that purpose. Of course pay backs would be faster without the renewable rider.
There are probably better solutions but the idea here is to find a way not to place an additional burden on our already strained foreign reserves while utilising the financial institutions in a manner that provides them with comfort. The purchase of the next best gadget that captures the countries imagination should require us the patience to work out how to pay for it, and what are the savings. The only surety is that the solution does require a National effort.
— Laurence Hunte