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Beyond the sun

In town, the talk has shifted from fiscal strategies, the down-grades to junk status and alternatives to fossil fuels that includes renewable energy.

During 2009, there was a public rate hearing by the Fair Trading Commission, which succeeded in giving more profits to Barbados Light & Power, despite a quarter century of making massive profits on a yearly basis. No other commercial company was able to match this profit consistency. Yet, the FTC awarded BL&P a 10 per cent annual increase, at a time when worldwide energy prices were continually climbing.

All consumers know that the fuel charge as applied by BL&P, and approved by the FTC, is the biggest worry in utility charge each month. By the way, when private and public companies pay these massive increases, the consumers are the ones who pay, irrespective of who writes the cheques.

There is talk of the BL&P wanting to assist with wind energy, in Lambert’s, St. Lucy and contributing to consumers’ alternative use of renewable energy, via their electricity grid. We ask you to seriously consider, apart from the talk, how is this going to positively impact the coffers of BL&P. This will happen when Government changes policy and law.

Before, and after, any Government has corrected the legal framework, consumers still need to play an active and vigilant role in looking after their interests. Why work for your hard-earned money to have others take it from you?

Of the eight Universally Declared Rights, which were ratified by Consumers’ International in 1983, the last one speaks to the “right to a healthy environment – to live and work in an environment, which is non-threatening to the well-being of present and future generations”.

While we must be mindful about our rights it is necessary to accept the case of our responsibilities. One such case as this relates to environmental awareness: the responsibility to understand the consequences of our actions, as these impact our environmental consumption habits. We should recognise our individual social responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth for present and future generations.

A solar energy system is sometimes referred to as an alternative energy system. And while that’s true, wind, geothermal, and hydro systems are also alternative energy sources. We focus primarily on solar and will therefore simply use the phrase solar energy system or solar power system. To the left are the basic components required to produce electricity from the sun. You will need one or more solar panels, a charger controller, a power inverter, and of course, batteries and or a wind turbine.

If one goes on the Internet, the prices of all the inputs, for renewable energy are very reasonable:

A package for a one bedroom dwelling could cost between $10,000 and $ 12,000.

A package for a three-bedroom house could cost between $15, 000 – $18,000 with a mixture of sun and wind energy.

If one is not proficient enough to set up a do-it-yourself project, you are at the mercy of some entrepreneurs who see this as a get-rich-quick scheme. One gets quotes ranging from $40,000 and $60,000.

Just like what obtained in the agriculture sector, Government has proposed incentives, but how can this is an incentive when ordinary people are asked to put up their money and then apply to Government to get a rebate some time in the distant future. Government has to understand that not even some companies, other than large industries, can benefit, let alone ordinary people.

* H. Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt is head of the Barbados Consumers Research Organisation, Inc.

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