Interview With Barbados Energy Minister Senator Darcy Boyce
Above: Minister Darcy Boyce (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
Like the rest of the Caribbean, Barbados is working to deal with the problem of increasing energy costs. With imported fuel dominating foreign exchange and the accordant high gas prices putting a damper on the country’s economy, Barbados is seeking alternatives. To learn more about how the country is tackling the problem, Caribbean Journal talked to Senator Darcy Boyce, Barbados’ Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister for Energy, Immigration, Telecommunications about green energy, fuel costs and offshore oil in Barbados.
How would you describe the current energy situation in Barbados?
One would have to say it is a worrying situation, largely because of the cost of energy and the cost of oil, and that translates into the cost of diesel, heating oil and gasoline. So we’ve had a very substantial increase in our oil imports over the last three or four years. In the last calendar year, the cost ran close to $400 million USD, which is a good chunk of our GDP for oil. So that has meant that our electricity prices have risen, and are continuing to be quite high. Of course, we’ve had to pass on the price of gasoline and diesel at the pump, because we cannot afford to continue to subsidize either the generation of electricity or the transportation sector. So we spend more of our foreign exchange on oil, our energy prices are high in the country, and that obviously doesn’t make us as competitive as we’d like to be.
We’re taking some steps to deal with those matters. One step is that we’re working on a project to import natural gas out of Trinidad, which will reduce the cost of electricity, and also clean up some emissions in the atmosphere. Secondly, we have not subsidized the price of fuel in recent times, and that has helped us to conserve some of our fuel. But we also are pressing ahead, trying to get some energy efficiency measures in place,, both in the government sector as well as in various parts of the private sector. Some work has been done with the hotel sector to find out what savings are possible. And, of course, we’ve been pushing hard to put in place a policy framework for renewable energy.
What role can renewable energies play in reducing energy costs in Barbados?
We have set a target of renewable energy to replace 30 percent of our generating capacity by 2029. But we feel that we can get it up to more than that, maybe get it up to 50 percent, and sooner. But there is also some work going on to create some base load renewable energy work. Government itself is trying to work with some partners to produce waste energy, where we can turn waste into energy, and save us from having to maintain landfills. [the Mangrove Pond project] and we will also be working with some private people to mine the gases there. Two other base load plans have also been proposed by the private sector. We’ve had a number of private persons come together seeking to utilize the organic industrial waste from the chicken industry and waste from the rum and beer industry, and to convert that into fuel for electricity. Hopefully, a pilot programme will start on that very soon.