Maria was a wake up call, warns BREA officials

The Barbados Renewable Energy Association (BREA) says this week’s island wide blackout in Barbados, as well as the dire situation in Dominica, both of which resulted from the passage of Hurricane Maria, should serve as a wake-up call for the Caribbean as a whole that it urgently needs to put renewable energy storage facilities in place.

While describing Monday’s power outage as timely, BREA executive member Hallam Hope reported today that since then, he had received several enquiries from people asking, “‘how can I get in some storage because I don’t want to be without my lights and lose my food in my refrigerator’and that sort of thing.

“So that is a hard example, and just like in Dominica, as to why storage is so important,” he told reporters during a news conference here on Thursday at which he strongly urged regional governments to treat urgently with this “very critical area” in the light of the recent catastrophic events.

“So again I think storage and telecoms are very critical and Dominica’s example is a good one as to why we need to have these systems up and running and maintained,” he stressed.

The Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (BL&P) has said that Monday’s blackout which threw the entire island into darkness was due to storm conditions experienced with the passage of Hurricane Maria. The powerful category five storm also knocked out vital power and telecommunications links in neighbouring Dominica, which has been largely cut off from the outside world, amid reports of widespread infrastructural damage and with 15 deaths confirmed so far at the hands of Maria.

In view of the developments, BREA has supported BL&P’s decision to establish a five-megawatt storage facility in the north of the island.

However, it has concerns about the method being used by the power company to recover its investment.

BREA Executive Director Meshia Clarke said her association would be holding a town hall meeting early next month to discuss the recent application made by BL&P to the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) for a review of the fuel clause adjustment (FCA).

BREA board member Hallam Hope (left) in conversation with Executive Director Meshia Clarke.

“BREA is in support of the application as it pertains to the need for the introduction of energy storage, but what we are looking to explore is what are the necessary process [and] mechanisms, what is going to be most palatable for the customer in the short-term and the long-term and how best do we get there accordingly,” Clarke said.

“What we will be exploring within the town hall meeting is . . . what does this mean in terms of the mechanism going forward? Is the fuel clause adjustment mechanism the best suited mechanism or is it the creation of a separate stand alone mechanism? What are the implications for the time period in terms of that and what would it mean for customers? So those are all important issues that BREA would be bringing to the forefront,” she explained, while stressing that BREA had always been calling for the expansion of storage facilities across the country.

Clarke said it was critical that as Government expands the sector, more attention is paid to “mapping a way forward for disaster risk management” and not just job creation and expenditure cuts.

In the meantime, BREA’s Vice President Jerry Franklin, who is also the Managing Director of EnSmart Inc., said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of individuals in Barbados who wanted to invest in storage.

“So it is something that will increasingly be sought after. Today the preferred investment by most people is a grid-tied solution, which cuts out when there is a utility power loss. But here is an increased interest,” Franklin said.

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