|Renewable energy in The Bahamas|
Published: Aug 17, 2012
The Minister of Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett addressed the House of Assembly on “Planning Our Electric Future”, on Wednesday, August 14.
Wednesday marked the PLP’s 100th day in office, so we were not surprised to hear of a plan to combat high electricity costs and promises of alternative energy production.
But The Bahamas does not need and does not have the time for any more plans; the PLP had five years to devise a plan. We need action.
Integrating alternative and preferably renewable energy production into our power generation portfolio is certainly the way of the future, but was it not the way of the future years ago? Diversified energy production — coal, diesel, nuclear, etc. — is not a radically new idea and is practiced in many jurisdictions around the world.
The dramatic rise in fuel prices is no excuse. Fuel prices have consistently been on the rise for the past 10 years, at least, and we see no indication that OPEC intends to diminish rising profits any time soon. Blaming high energy costs on the high cost of fuel is a dated argument, for which the past and present governments have only reinforced by building and upgrading power production with additional heavy fuel oil generators.
Any additional investment in heavy fuel generation should not be considered as part of reducing the cost of electricity, unless BEC enters a public-private partnership in which maintenance becomes a priority. Abaco still suffers inconsistent electricity and it was the recipient of the $105 million new 48MW Wilson City plant.
Bahamians are left to bear the brunt of high costs and low reliability brought on by poor planning and management of operations and maintenance.
The minister went on to indicate that the Government of The Bahamas is considering proposals for solar energy, waste-to-energy, ocean thermal energy plants and wind. The geographic and physical setting of The Bahamas lends itself to myriad alternative energy possibilities.
So why hasn’t The Bahamas invested or been the recipient of private investment in alternative energy? In an ironic twist of fate, Bahamian legislation is our biggest obstacle. The government must relinquish absolute control over the national grid to allow for some friendly competition to BEC.
As if amending our existing legislation was not difficult enough, pursuing diversification of energy production in The Bahamas will be encumbered by the announcement of a new sustainable energy unit, new renewable energy legislation, new electricity sector regulation and a new national review plan for cross-island sharing.
The government must be transparent and honest with the Bahamian people. When will we see public or private investment in alternative energy? Private industry does not have years to twiddle its thumbs while we form new committees.
Should a renewable project be approved tomorrow, it would take years for such projects to ultimately be built and for new electricity to be put into the grid for consumption. Action must be taken and quickly. The time for action is not now, it was yesterday.
It is encouraging that the government has received proposals that intend on saving BEC $100 million annually, though such enormous sums of monetary savings leave us intrigued. The government need not only approve a single entity for alternative power production but an array of alternatives, as some are bound to fail.
It would be a remarkable feat of the PLP’s tenure if alternative power production from a private entity was to enter the grid and coexist with BEC. It is possible, but only if the government acts as a facilitator rather than a hindrance.