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Bahamas urged to be ‘more ambitious’ on renewables

Energy forum founder laments lack of legislation
  • CREF Chairman, Jerry Butler, presenting a model wind turbine to Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Guardian Business Editor

Published: Oct 03, 2013

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The Bahamas must be “more ambitious in its thinking” with respect to renewable energy, a leading Caribbean renewable energy proponent and stakeholder has argued, suggesting that capping at 30 percent the planned involvement of non-fossil fuel energy sources is simply a submission to the oil sector.

Jerry Butler, founding chairman of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF), set to take place in Aruba next week, has argued that given the vulnerability to climate change that currently characterizes The Bahamas, this nation should not only be calling for other countries to address their emissions, but should be doing more on its own part.

“The Bahamas should be deeper into this game, and much more ambitious in its thinking,” Butler told Guardian Business yesterday, ahead of the fifth CREF.

Butler suggested that a major signal of The Bahamas’ lag in the area of renewable energy, and impediment to its attractiveness in attracting this type of investment, is its failure to yet pass legislation relating to energy.

In 2012, a ranking of Caribbean countries revealed at the CREF found that this nation ranked 21st out of 22 countries in the region for its readiness to develop and implement renewable energy projects. The ranking was conducted by Washington, D.C.-based consultants, Castalia.

Noting that exactly where The Bahamas ranks in this regard will be a focus of a panel at the upcoming Caribbean Regional Energy Forum (CREF) in Aruba, October 9-11, Butler said that not much appears to have changed during this time.

“The fact is we have had prime ministers making statements which show acknowledgment of [The Bahamas’ vulnerability to climate change], but you have to really lament that at this point The Bahamas does not have legislation past regarding energy policy. Legislation is key.”

Butler pointed to the need for policies regarding transportation, energy efficiency in buildings, the use of solar water heaters and incandescent lightbulbs, the capturing and recycling of heat emitted by hotel air conditioning systems, among other areas.

Such legislation would allow for energy conservation and renewables to become “part of our social fabric,” he suggested.

“A comprehensive energy policy would have addressed so many of these factors beyond what we do the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC),” said Butler, a Bahamian and former executive director at the Inter-American Development Bank, of recent statements by the prime minister on energy reform, which focused heavily on BEC.

At the upcoming, sold-out CREF, host country Aruba will be showcasing its plans to go “all green” by 2020, becoming “energy independent” by achieving all of its power from renewable sources, with the help of Sir Richard Branson.

In The Bahamas’ case, the government has recently revealed that it not only intends to seek to have 30 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030, but also that this will be considered a maximum. The reason given is that fossil-fuel fired generation will still be required for grid stability.

As for whether The Bahamas could in fact achieve such an ambitious goal as going “all-green”, Butler said it will depend on getting “buy-in” from the fossil-fuel sector, and for renewable advocates to develop a strong argument as to why further reliance on renewables is important not only from an economic perspective, but from a “moral” one.

“I believe the renewable sector must through education and social responsibility to the climate continue to make a case for why there is not just a competitive, or dollars and cents, reason to move to renewable energy, it is more of a moral hazard. We should make every effort to move to renewable energy where we have opportunity to substitute it for fossil fuels such as oil,” said Butler.

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