“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” – (Matthew 11:28)

The late Honourable Professor Oliver Headley, presented a paper (2001), shortly before his untimely death in 2002 entitled ‘The Barbados Goal: Forty Percent of Electricity from Renewable Sources by 2010’. In this paper he reminded us that Barbados has set a target to produce 40% of the island’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Barbados currently obtains about 15% of its primary energy from solar water heaters and burning sugar cane bagasse, while Mauritius obtains 20% of its primary energy from burning bagasse and has a strategy to increase their percentage of electricity from this source to over 40%. In contrast, Jamaica spent $668 million US on imported energy in the year 2000, and generates 96% of its electricity from imported fossil fuels.

In order to attain the goal stated above, Professor Headley and Mr. Peter Williams, Director of Planning, Barbados Light and Power (BL&P) have suggested a mixture of technologies. Wind and bagasse will be the major contributors, with ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), wave power, waste combustion and distributed photovoltaic (PV) power making the smallest inputs.

The Abstract went on to reveal that BL&P produced 711 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity last year (2000), and at a growth rate of 3.5% per year, this would increase over the next nine years to 969 GWh in 2010. Forty percent of this is 388GWh. The proposed mix gives an estimated production of 322GWh, which is 83% of our goal; well within the ball park.

Solar water heaters were commercially introduced into Barbados over 30 years ago and have made, and will continue to make, their contribution to the supply of energy obtained from renewable sources. The BL&P has operated a demonstration PV facility at Seawell and has, more recently, installed another demonstration PV facility at The Future Centre at Edgehill. This suggests that the BL&P has, on its radar, PV as an alternative source of supply for the national grid and will, presumably, bring it to the front burner as soon as the economics of the operation justifies it as a reliable competitor to fossil fuel raw material sources.

My own personal belief is that a policy paper needs to be prepared to advise Government what its contribution could be to accelerating the commercialisation of PV, bearing in mind the significant foreign exchange savings which can be obtained from the expansion of solar electricity, notwithstanding the stated higher cost per kilowatt hour.

When Government introduced an appropriate incentive to consumers for the replacement of gas and electrically fired methods of heating water, by solar technology, there was an exponential increase in its use, to the extent that Barbados is now one of the leading countries in the world, in terms of solar water heating capacity per capita. The surface has only been scratched in this regard since there is significant potential for its use in the growing hotel sector.

Indeed, CBET has prepared, using its own resources, in consultation with the late Prof. Headley and BL&P, a Business Plan for the assembly of solar water heating modules for light and power companies to place on the roofs of buildings, the solar power from which would be fed into the national grid.

Better late than never! It is heartening to see that, in the recently concluded Economic and Financial statements by the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Barbados, that a renewable energy policy is being put on the front burner, presumably because of the soaring world market price of a barrel of crude oil. Now, we must monitor the steps taken to implement this policy so that there can be some real increase in the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources in the short term. The sceptics say that, if the price of oil were to decline (an unlikely event), this would take the pressure off and the urgency to implement the renewable energy policy would decline. I, however, venture to suggest that we should assemble all relevant resources immediately to pursue the benefits of solar, wind, biomass, ocean thermal, wave and waste combustion sources of renewable energy.

I note that our attention to the controversial Greenland Landfill project has recently been aroused. We should always remember that modern technology incineration methods can effectively reduce the burden on any landfill site while, at the same time, contributing the enhancement of the energy supply from a renewable source.

It is time that the Renewable Energy Centre concept, which was on the cards prior to Prof. Headley’s death, but which has not surfaced recently, should be brought to life as an Advisory Centre to inform policy and act as a catalyst for implementation in the Island. I note, too, the ninth World Renewable Energy Congress & Exhibition is scheduled to be held at the University of Florence in Italy from August 19-25, 2006, with an exciting and interesting set of aims and topics. Representatives from Barbados would do well to rub their shoulders with other participants at this global event so as to ensure that we aspire to the frontiers of research, development and implementation in this sector.