By Paul Hay
The Bahamas’ only privately-owned power provider – Grand Bahama Power Company – recently commissioned an additional 52-megawatt power plant. Speaking on the occasion, Minister of Grand Bahama – Dr Michael Darville – urged the owners to support the government’s thrust to reduce the cost of electricity. He said “the use of alternative forms of energy will bring real change to the cost of electricity and open new doors for the industrial sector to grow, thus attracting many foreign and domestic investors to Grand Bahama.” He further stated that high dependency on fossil fuels had negatively affected that nation’s development.
The Bahamas was the largest of ten Caribbean nations studied by the Organization of American States’ Department of Sustainable Development, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley.
Following that study, a report was produced called Energy Policy and Sector Analysis in the Caribbean (2010-2011). One of the stated objectives of this study was to identify renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities within the nations covered.
At that time, the Bahamas’ energy capacity was 585 megawatts, none of which came from renewable sources. It was determined that 73 MW of technical potential existed for renewable energy development, which represented 12.5 percent of that capacity.
However, the Bahamas’ National Energy Policy targets 15 percent use of renewable energy by 2020. In other words, the nation needs to fully utilize its renewable energy potential within eight years. As if this is not difficult enough, the Bahamas, like most of the other nations studied, does not allow the operation of independent power providers or self-generation of electricity, except on private islands.
So, the task of achieving its 2020 objective is solely dependent on their two power providers, and mainly on the larger, government-owned Bahamas Electricity Company, which produces 80 percent of its power.
The report concluded that: “Caribbean islands have the potential to lead the world to a new energy future, this will not happen without consistent, thoughtful policies and plans.”
It is my considered opinion that the Caribbean needs to reconsider its restriction of independent power providers and self-generation if we are to realize our potential in renewable energy development.
This is particularly relevant to the Bahamas if it is to have a chance of achieving its 2020 goal.
Very few governments, even within developed nations, can unilaterally undertake the transition to renewables. But partnering with private enterprise will make this achievable.
New policies and standards must be developed and implemented to allow for distributed energy generation from renewable energy sources, to augment existing central power plants.
The use of Renewable Distributed Energy Generation is emerging as a growing sector of the global electrical power industry.
This is particularly so in developing countries, where electricity costs are high and a significant proportion of the society has no access to electricity.
But business and technology practices will have to change.
Paul Hay is the founder and manager of Paul Hay Capital Projects.
Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.