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    A Sustainable Energy Plan for Barbados?

    By Keith R | February 27, 2007

    Topics: Air Quality, Biofuels, Climate Change, Economics & the Environment, Energy & the Environment, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection, Extractive Sectors, Marine/Coastal Issues, Renewable Sources | 12 Comments »

          
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    In an earlier article, I looked at the sustainability of Brazil’s long-range energy plans. Today I examine Barbados’ recently announced 20-year plans.

    The government of Prime Minister Owen Arthur recently presented to Parliament a ambitious draft national energy plan that has numerous environmental elements in it. While some have applauded its stated intentions — reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, less reliance on imported oil, greater reliance on renewable energy, greater energy conservation and efficiency — others have questioned how realistic the plan is.

    Subdued Interest

    The reaction to the presentation has been somewhat muted, perhaps because many of the Plan’s concepts have been floated at one time or another by the Prime Minister or his Cabinet during 2006.

    For its part the media has tended to focus on the provisions of the plan calling for more offshore drilling and exploration, Energy and Environment Minister Elizabeth Thompson’s claims for strong international interest (reportedly Exxon-Mobil and Shell) in such concessions and Barbados’ plans to set “tough” conditions on competitive bidding for offshore drilling rights.

    Some have wondered aloud just how interested international petroleum companies really might be, pointing out that Conoco abandoned drilling off Barbados not too long ago — although that was before a UN Law of the Sea arbitration panel recently ruled on the maritime boundary dispute between Barbados and Trinidad, reducing some of the legal risks in such exploration. Some also wonder just how much leverage Barbados really will have in setting special conditions on drilling concessions.

    Those energy analysts paying attention at all have focused not just on the drilling rights, but also other major sectoral changes called for in the Plan, namely:

    The Temas Perspective

    While restructuring Barbados’ energy profile, liberalizing its markets and reducing its energy security vulnerabilities interest me, the Temas Blog is more about environment, health, safety and consumer issues. Without better data on in-country conditions it would be difficult for me to comment on the consumer implications of the proposed Plan, so here I’ll look at its environmental implications.

    Actually what initially struck me in reading the draft Plan is its heavy, almost self-conscious emphasis on stressing the environmental dimensions of the energy policy rather than its energy security aspects. For example, the proposed switch from petroleum-based power production to natural gas-based was billed almost as strongly as a move to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as it was to reduce the country’s economic vulnerability to higher international oil prices.

    Let’s take a look at the Plan’s various environment-related elements.

    Reducing GHG Emissions

    Since the government calculates that some 94% of Bajan GHG emissions are CO2, and electricity generation accounts for 74% of those, switching all but 10% of Barbados’ electricity generation from diesel or bunker-fueled plants to natural gas will be the country’s major contribution to combating global climate change. [Currently natural gas accounts for only 2.5% of electricity generation, fuel oil 90% and 7.5% diesel.] It would also significantly cut Barbados’ import bill, since currently electricity generation accounts for about half of all imported petroleum-based fuel consumption. [Temas Note: Barbados has modest natural gas reserves; if it continued at current consumption rates, the reserves could last about 15 years. To increase usage to 70% of power generation by 2026 will require importing natural gas from Trinidad, either by undersea pipeline or by tankers as compressed natural gas.]

    Other steps proposed include:

    BPLC Officials & the Late Prof. Headley
    BL&P Officials with the late Prof. Oliver Headley

    Increased Use of Renewables

    Barbados is not a stranger to employing renewable energy technology. One of LAC’s best-known solar pioneers was Bajan: Professor Oliver Headley of the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill developed many solar still and solar crop drying systems used throughout the Caribbean Basin, and spearheaded the installation of solar electric systems at several schools, government buildings and even BL&P. Barbados also developed and installed a solar hot water system (SHWS) in some 38,000 homes and 55 hotels (thanks in part to tax incentives for installing the systems) — far more than any other Caribbean nation. The Government now says that it will seek to promote and export the SHWS model to the rest of the region.

    The Plan envisions shifting 10% of all national energy usage to renewable sources by 2012, 20% by 2026. [Temas Note: This is a substantial pull-back from the Government’s previously announced goal of 30% by 2012, itself lower than the 40% by 2010 projected in the Government’s 2000-2010 strategic plan.] The 2026 renewables target range for electricity generation is 14-22% (quite a broad range! wonder why they cannot be more precise?), including:

    In addition, the Plan calls for:

    Growth of Per Capita Energy Consumption in Barbados (click to enlarge)Energy Conservation and Efficiency

    In essence, the draft Plan hopes to minimize fuel imports and deal with growth in power demand over the next 20 years (projected at roughly 4% per year) though efforts to reduce wastage and increase efficiency, including:

    Transport-Related Provisions

    Other Environment-Related Provisions of the Plan

    Nice Design, But Can You Actually Build It?

    The draft Energy Plan hits all the right environmental notes and themes that international institutions, lenders and investors applaud these days — market liberalization, source diversification, GHG cuts, energy conservation, energy efficiency, biofuels and other renewable sources, fuel efficiency and emission standards for vehicles, etc. Probably it should be praised for at least being mindful of such things — lord knows I have read many energy plans in LAC that ignored the environmental impacts of their proposals.

    Perhaps too many “smooth” and “sounds good” notes: there is too little feel of the tough trade-offs such policies usually entail, of calculating cost-benefits, of considering where the different items on the laundry list of policy measures might work at cross-purposes or even undermine one another. No firm sense of priority-setting, and everything is spoken of in terms of near- (2010) or long- (2026) term — nothing in the medium-term, as if it does not exist and transitions will take care of themselves.

    The paucity of current, hard data in the Plan certainly does not inspire confidence. For example, when discussing air pollution, the Plan cites a 1994 World Health Organization study — back when the number of registered private cars were half what they are now, private lorries and vans 60% less, bagasse was burned and BL&P used older turbine technology. It cannot provide figures for which sectors other than power generation currently uses the most petroleum, because the Central Bank stopped collecting such statistics in 1998. The GHG emission data are all from 1997, ten years ago, so how does the government intend to determine who are the principal emitters now and how much they emit, so that a carbon tax can be assessed?

    Curious is the Plan’s minimal mention of the role of public mass transit in the island’s energy and environment equation. The Plan laments that heavy usage of private cars is inefficient and undesirable, mentions that public transport in rural areas are considered unreliable, notes that public transport is a heavily user of diesel, and says in passing that a comprehensive public transport plan is needed. But why aren’t these already factored into the Plan? Wouldn’t modern traffic management, more reliable public transport and the use of buses or mini-buses powered by compressed natural gas contribute significantly on a island with an area no bigger than 2.5 times the District of Columbia?

    Then there is the excellent point recently raised by my friends at Barbados Free Press: how can this ambitious Plan be implemented in a policy vacuum, when Barbados, after years of promises and drafting and redrafting work, still lacks a general environment law? How can the government impose emission controls, inspect motor vehicles, properly supervise offshore drilling and onshore natural gas storage facilities, ethanol production and wind farms, and generally enforce the many measures envisioned in this Plan without a framework law and supporting regulations (which may take years to write and adopt) and an inspection and enforcement staff and budget?

    Further, who is going to be setting and inspecting compliance with the energy efficiency and labeling requirements for appliances, the efficiency components in the building code, the bans on various materials? Who will be conducting all these energy audits envisioned, and what certification will be provided for the auditors?

    The devil always is in such details. Can all of the Plan elements truly be realized? To the extent and within the timeframe envisioned? If so, how, given current and prospective budgetary and technical resources available to Barbados? If not, what will be sacrificed first?

    The Barbadian Senate already has before it a resolution to approve the draft Plan and urge the Government to “proceed to implement [it] in the shortest possible time.” Maybe the Senators should demand further details first, or better yet, an open national public debate on the various elements of the Plan. But given what I have read about the current Administration and its hold over Parliament, this does not seem likely.

    — Keith R

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    12 Responses to “A Sustainable Energy Plan for Barbados?”

    1. greengage Says:

      I am trying to transfer the text of my response to this on the Barbados Free Press website. However I am technically challenged and may well fail. (I have saved the text on NotePad but haven’t a clue it it will transfer here) Here goes=

      I have dutifully read the whole report and it makes impressive reading. Keith’s main point is that it all sounds great, but is it realistic? Having a pie chart at the heading of your post is quite appropriate as the whole report is Pie in the Sky, words which sound the right notes, but can be no more than 10% implemented within the time frames indicated.

      Certain key facts impressed me:
      1. The largest user of imported oil products is Barbados Light and Power (BL&P not BP&L, Keith, that is Miami).
      2. The largest user of electricity is B’dos Water Authority.
      3. Barbados’ small size presents ideal circumstances for mass transit solutions because the mass of the population is on a strip north and south of Bridgetown. The report points out that Gov’t does not address this opportunity creatively.

      In any such bulky Plan where limited expertise and resources make it totally impracticable to implement in its entirety, the best thing to do is concentrate on a few attainable goals which will have the best result.

      The answers ring out loud and clear for me.
      1. Switch as much of BLP’s power generation to natural gas as possible.
      2. Convert BWA’s heavy electricity usage to natural gas powered pumps.
      3. Convert all buses and ZR vehicles to compressed natural gas by generous tax/levy incentives etc. as soon as possible.

      Those three steps alone will probably reduce Barbados’ Carbon Footprint more than all the other ambitious scattered intentions put together. They are also straighforward enough to be achieved once there is an assured source of natural gas.

      There is an obvious case for compressed natural gas powered trams running along the coast from Oistins to Holetown, passing through Bridgetown east of the centre. If efficiently and economically run they should reduce commuter traffic substantially, reducing the pollution of all those SUVs creeping along bumper to bumper.

      Enabling houseowners to generate their own electricity into the grid should also not be hard. I would love to have solar voltaic cells on my roof, reducing the heat load on the roof besides producing power. The main obstacle to this seems to be the conservatism of BL&P who want to keep their monopoly, naturally.

      I also love windfarms, and feel Barbados, with its history of windmills, must be a natural for it. We have seen how the good folk at the proposed site are up in arms against it. Good old stick-in-the-mud Bajans! Saying the noise might keep them awake at night is understandable but fatuous. Like the thousands of homeowners between Enterprise and the airport asking for the airport to be relocated because of the noise of landing aircraft- which is loud indeed.

      One problem not addressed in the Report is the wasted fuel and increased pollution caused by parents taking their children to and from schools outside the area where they live. This must surely contribute about 30% to the fuel bill of every family which does this daily trek.

      This involves changing the “first choice” system we love so dearly, and I can’t imagine it being changed.

      I shall be interested to see what other bloggers feel about the Sustainable Energy Plan.”

      Aha! Success, to my surprise. Hope this reaches you OK, Keith. Regards- Greengage

    2. Keith R Says:

      Welcome to The Temas Blog, Greengage, and thanks for your insightful comments. As I remarked over at the BFP blog, you have said it better than I, and with more economy of words! And you clearly know (and love) Barbados well, whereas I have yet to have had the pleasure of visiting it (but do plan to do so at some point).

      I hope you return soon and often to the blog, and comments like yours are always welcome!

      Best Regards,
      Keith

      P.S. Any other readers want to opine about Greengage’s suggested 3-point solution and preference for wind turbines as the sustainable energy choice for Barbados?

    3. sandra sealey Says:

      I would like to use material from this page for a social studies assignment on energy consumption in Barbados specifically natural gas.
      Very good research on Barbados, very infromative and educational .
      I’ll be visiting this sit more often.

      Sandra (sanlav)

    4. sandra sealey Says:

      The site is excelent good layout, graphics, information

    5. Keith R Says:

      Thanks for visting and commenting, Sandra. Welcome to the The Temas Blog! I’m glad you found it informative and educational and suitable for class use. I’m even happier to hear you’ll be visiting again! Any suggestions on other LAC-related topics you’d like to see covered in the future, don’t hesitate to let me know.
      Best regards,
      Keith

    6. Perdy Says:

      Keith, Is this government serious about conserving energy or doing anything to protect green house gas emission?
      (1)1/3 of the energy can be saved if all incandescent bulbs were exchanged for energy saving bulbs. Australia decided to go this route and so has all of Europe. Guyana had a system in placed where an incandescent bulb could be exchanged for an energy saving bulb for some time now.
      (2)Barbados produces approx 100 tons of waste a day. Why not burn it at high temperature like other sensible countries and produce energy for the Grid.
      (3) All new housing development could have sun water heaters installed on them instead of (electric) emersion heaters.
      (4) Lots of condos have air conditioners.Why not have them using photovoltaic cells to power them.
      (5) Northern Ireland( Secretary of State, P.Hain,mandated all new houses must have solar cells(PV) on the roofs to produce electricity. How much sunshine is there in N. Ireland?
      (6 I heard this Government was promoting rally car racing in this country, every house having a car!Tell me where I can buy a car which uses fuel other than petrol or diesel.
      (7) I kept ‘smelling’ the word “stinkeroo”;did you know methane is 25 times more damaging to the ozone layer.
      (8) All those air planes in the sky discharge their emission directly into the stratosphere, goodbye holiday.
      (9) ‘Greengage’ loves wind farms.The people in the North would love to start a collection to send Greengage to Europe or North America for a fortnight’s holiday to hug a wind turbine and live next to a wind farm and come back and tell all of ‘Temas’ readers what it was like living next to a wind farm. Wind turbine can only keep as much noise as a bedroom fan!
      Wind turbines are not wind mills. Machines used for wind farms are of an industrial type and when grouped together can wake the dead. Infrasound can be ground Bourne.You try reading/studying,resting sleeping within 1.5 miles from any wind farm.It’s not like a plane taking off or landing; its like a plane hovering which never lands, day in day out and multiply this by 365 days for the 25 years. That lovely wind farm is to be situated 350 meters away from the nearest house (AMEC’s EIA) though it is suspected nearer.
      In many of those houses live elderly people and children. The local school and an old people’s home are within a distance of approx. 600 meters. Those residing in the north who object to the Lamberts wind farm, object to the close proximity to their homes and are not against wind farms in general.
      The wind turbine project was decided without proper research or consultation. The residents knew nothing about it. Would you like a similar project to be erected in your front/back yard without informing you?
      Please come, speak with those good folks at the proposed site and see for your self; they are not a “Good old stick-in-the-mud Bajans”, but are genuine ‘Good folks’.Go and meet them.
      Temas can provide a contact number.
      Please do.
      Leo Sobers

    7. Terris Says:

      Hi Keith, thank you for blogging about this. Very informative, and I appreciate your critical insights. Would you happen to know where I could find a (digital) copy of the draft Energy Plan? Thanks again.

    8. Keith R Says:

      Welcome to The Temas Blog Leo and Terris. Leo, great observations. As much as I would love to take you up on your invitation and visit Barbados and see for myself, I don’t have any current work taking me to the island and my family vacation plans for this year will be taking me back to the DR. Sorry! I hope Greengage takes you up on it, though.

      Terris, thanks for the kind words. I thought I had included a link to the official draft plan in my article (I certainly intended to!), but I see that I did not. I’ll have to go back through my notes and find out where I got my hands on it. Meanwhile, would it be okay to email you a copy instead? Let me know.

      I hope you both revisit and comment often. The interchange of thoughts, ideas, views makes all the work going into this worth it.

      Best Regards,
      Keith

    9. sandra sealey Says:

      Thank you for responding to my submission. Sorry for not responding earlier was bogged down with work and studies.

      My project was on natural gas – challenges and solutions, as you may have noticed its all over the news now as Barbados proposes to have NG piped from Trinidad to Barbados. What do you think?
      Sandra

    10. Nihika Verma Says:

      Hi Keith,

      I went through the article and it was very informative. I am interested in reading more about the draft energy plan for barbados but couldn’t find it anywhere. Would u be able to provide me with a link where I could find a digital copy of it?

      Thanks

    11. Barbados Underground Says:

      […] Source: The Temas Blog […]

    12. News Blog of Keltruth Corp. Says:

      […] Additional reading: Temas Blog – A Sustainable Energy Plan for Barbados? […]

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