Access to cheap renewable energy is a key to energy security


Enabling technologies took center stage when the CleanTech Cluster Barbados (BLOOM) and Atom Solutions Incorporated hosted a third CleanTech dialogue session aimed at helping to transform the Barbados economy.


During this final dialogue held on Friday, November 26, 2021, Project Coordinator and CEO of Atom Solutions Incorporated, Dr. Erwin Edwards, referred to the thrust towards greater use of renewable energy and smart technologies and emphasized that a business’ ability to manage their costs is critical to their competitiveness. He said this would help push costs down within companies, and there is the added benefit of reducing emissions, which aids in the national efforts to become emissions-free by 2030.


Dr. Edwards said, “Energy in Barbados is expensive compared to the rest of the world. In Trinidad, you may be looking at six cents per kilowatt; here, you’re looking at between 30 and 40 cents. So when you look at the cost structure for businesses, energy is pretty high. So if you can zoom in on some of the higher costs in your cost structure, then you have an opportunity to make the business more competitive”.


Programme Manager Energy, Delegation of the European Union (EU) to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Kyle Farnum, also speaking during the forum, said that the EU is doing extensive work in the area of energy. In fact, he indicated that 27 percent of their last funding cycle (2014-2020) were related to energy projects, including the Public Sector Smart Energy Programme in Barbados. 


“In terms of the Public Sector Smart Energy Programme, we’ve been able to install about three megawatts of PV [photovoltaic] installations. In the end, I think we’ll be able to get up to 4.3 MW [megawatts]”.


He explained that the new seven-year funding cycle commenced this year, and 17 projects had been approved at that time through its regional blending mechanism – the Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF).


Mr. Farnum, referring to the process for securing funding under the CIF, stated that half of the resources allocated to projects approved under the CIF are focused on sustainable energy and energy efficiency mechanisms. He noted that is indicative of the region’s goals to transition from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy. 


Advisor on Competitiveness and Export Promotion at Caribbean Export, Markson Gill, said that Agency also supports greening the economy. Mr. Gill explained that not only do they recognize the negative impact that the traditional energy infrastructure can have on the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, given the high cost of electricity, but they are aware that the region is highly vulnerable to external price shocks. 


“You also have energy supply security concerns, such as could occur in the disruption of global supply chains. The recent events in Barbados, especially with our category one hurricane experience, showed us how vulnerable our conventional centralized energy systems can be to disaster events… Also, we are very cognizant of the growing importance of environmental, social and governance concerns in global supply chains,” he stated.


Among the other highlights was a robust panel discussion featuring Andy Armstrong and Roberts Hinds from the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Dr. Edwards on improving the use of renewable energy in the business community, including the tourism sector.


In his closing remarks, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Cluster Manager, Jari Aaltonen, lauded the various presenters from the public and private sectors for the knowledge imparted over the three days. He said such discussions are critical to developing the green economy and advancing CleanTech generally. 


Mr. Aaltonen added, “My sincere hope is that we can continue these policy dialogues in the coming months and years”.


In total, more than 60 persons participated in the dialogues over the three days.