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A Bahamian renewable energy solutions provider has described a week of efforts to clear power-saving lightbulbs with Customs at the Arawak Cay dock as a "maddening exercise", which draws into question just how serious the Government is about encouraging Bahamians to reduce their energy bills.
Philip Holdom, executive manager of Integrated Security Services (ISS), said: "Either the Government needs to drop the tariffs they are trying to levy, or they need to stop going around saying we are promoting energy efficiency. As it is, they either appear to be ignorant, or hypocrites."
BAHAMIAN suppliers of energy efficient equipment and technology are “finding it very difficult to function” because of the inconsistent treatment their imported products receive from the Customs Department, a former Chamber of Commerce president said yesterday, with some shipments allowed in duty-free and others charged the full 45 per cent.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
THE Bahamian hotel industry could slash around $50 million off its annual energy bill if it implemented practices to become more energy efficient, a government minister has estimated, with draft legislation to facilitate "small scale" independent power production now under review.
Addressing an Energy Efficiency Forum organised jointly by the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) and Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), Phenton Neymour referred to a report by the German consultants, Fichtner, which had shown that Bahamian hotels could enjoy savings of between 49-63 per cent on their existing power bills by implementing a ...
A short while ago, I received a flyer promoting some turn-key residential properties that allege to be energy efficient.
The units boasted energy efficient appliances, but beyond that, they were silent. When we talk about efficient or high performing buildings, it is certainly important to ensure that we carefully examine the building envelope.
Although we may not think of them that way, collectively buildings are big consumers of energy.
Indeed according to an article by Alan Macklin published in the August 2011 issue of Modern Building Systems, it is estimated that 40 percent of the world's energy is consumed by buildings, making the management of energy used by buildings a key component in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and frankly reducing the cost of doing business.
This increased emphasis on the performance of buildings worldwide is due in part to legislation.
In fact, in the same article by Macklin he cites the directives by the European Council for 2020 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, increase the share of renewable energy by 20 percent and improve energy efficiency by 20 percent. The other major factor in this drive is of course money. Because of the rise in energy costs, building management, once the domain of the engineer, has now become a central focus for financial leaders and company CEOs.
The performance of homes is of course just as important to the homeowner who has to grapple with increased spending on energy as well.
Over the years, I have heard numerous persons lament the fact that as hot as it is outside, the inside of their homes is even hotter. This problem can be blamed on poorly sealed, un-insulated homes - a matter that has increasingly been seen as a problem because air-conditioned homes are now commonplace.
From the standpoint of the mechanical engineer, when we look to design an air-conditioning system for a business or home, the projected performance of the building itself is a critical factor in the design process. If we start from the outside, the orientation of the building on the property is important, in that assuming you have sufficient land area to do so, it is better to rotate the building so it is not fully east or west facing but rather experiences sunrise or sunset at an angle.
Avoid the temptation to raze the property before building. Instead, keep some of the trees, as this will reduce future landscaping costs and potentially provide exterior shading to windows.
To improve the performance of your building you need to consider the "R value" of walls and roofs, and to do so, effective insulation is often necessary. The R value refers to the resistance to heat flow and a higher R value indicates greater insulation effectiveness.
I caution you that before you consider insulation, the issue of moisture control should be examined very closely with your architect and builder. It is very important that buildings are properly sealed to prevent the intrusion of moisture.
Walls should be well constructed with all openings properly sealed.
With reference to home construction, for example, the U.S. Department of Energy describes a wall with an R value of 14.6 or higher as having advanced insulation and those with an R value of 11.6 as standard. Windows should be properly sealed all around to avoid leakage and double paned if budget permits, or at the very least tinted to reduce the impact of solar radiation that makes the interior feel warmer. The same rules apply to any glass doors. Interior shading from blinds or sheers, for example, also helps reduce the load on the air-conditioning system.
Consider making your roof a cool roof. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), a cool roof reflects (solar reflectance) and emits (thermal emittance) the sun's heat back to the sky instead of transferring it to the building below. Solar reflectance and thermal emittance are measured from 0 to 1 and the higher the number the cooler the roof.
A lot of cool roofs are white and we can relate to this from feeling the difference between wearing white or black clothes.
Many of us are also familiar with Bermuda roofs that are white. However according to the CRRC there are many cool color products that have dark pigments but are highly reflective. They further predict average energy savings on cooling costs can range from 7 percent to 15 percent.
Therefore, with your building envelope designed and making sure it's outfitted with high efficient lighting and appliances, you will be well on your way to achieving a truly energy-efficient building.
Challenge for this week: If planning to build a new office or home, discuss building performance with your architect before plans are drawn.
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Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd and is a registered Professional Engineer
In our last article, we began the discussion of what is a national energy policy and why The Bahamas must consider its formulation and implementation as a matter of national importance. Over the past week, the government has made some encouraging remarks that indicate it does in fact recognize its significance and it is actively considering the various avenues to bring a national energy policy to fruition.
In this week's article, we discuss the current governmental initiatives that are being used in formulating such a plan and discuss some of the potential economic and social benefits as well as the costs that we can expect to incur.
What can be done
To its credit, successive Bahamian governments (both the current and former administrations) have already initiated this discussion, aptly captured in the BEST Commission's "Second Report of the National Energy Policy Committee" that was released in 2010.
The report focused mainly on the electricity and transportation sectors, which are the primary users of fossil fuels in our country, with the aim of reducing our dependency through energy efficiency and the utilization of renewable energy sources.
It seems the government is sincere in its desire to develop and implement a sustainable energy matrix for the country by 2030 with the goal of having renewable energy technologies account for at least 30 percent of our overall power supply. The year 2030 is only 17 years away. While this is admittedly a relatively very short period of time, we only need to look to cases such as Denmark's successful and similarly quick transformation of its energy industry as a guide.
Now internationally renowned for its use of wind power technology, Denmark (like The Bahamas) was 100 percent dependent on fossil fuels and became painfully aware of its need to develop an energy policy after the oil crisis of the 1970's. While wind power is its primary source of renewable energy, this country, which is comprised of many small islands (sounds familiar?), also employs solar technology and has aggressively embraced the idea of independent power producers (IPPs) to help it meet its ever increasing electricity needs.
Between 1997 and 2007, Denmark fostered an environment that resulted in roughly 43 percent of its electricity needs being sourced from IPPs.
This feat was in part accomplished through measures that encouraged and empowered municipalities and private firms to generate the energy needs for their surrounding communities, thus shifting their grid focus from large centralized power plants to smaller efficient, and in most cases, green energy producers.
Given our geographic spread, The Bahamas is a prime candidate to duplicate this successful model across our island chain. While daunting, it shows that our 2030 deadline is in fact achievable once we remain willing to put in the appropriate measures and resources.
In terms of getting us ready, Minister for the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett outlined last year the following steps his ministry is seeking to immediately implement:
o Introduction of a Renewable Energy Act;
o Creation of an electricity sector regulator;
o Establishment of a Sustainable Energy Unit in the Ministry of Environment;
o Development of a national review plan to evaluate the most efficient way to move electricity from one island to another;
o Expand incentives to reduce the demand for energy;
o Introduce further reductions and or exemptions of customs duties on energy efficient appliances;
o Encourage businesses to conduct independent energy audits;
o Encourage the private sector to generate electricity that can be sold to BEC.
Change is needed
As a precursor to all this, it is already widely recognized that our current laws (The Electricity Act, 1956) are grossly inadequate and must first be modernized in order to effect change. Power, literally and figuratively, must be placed into the hands of the people.
For both the benefit of BEC and consumers (through reduced costs), residential solar power utilization along with net billing (the ability for consumers to sell excess electricity back into the grid) are relatively "low-hanging fruits" that we can easily target over the next five years.
It was even recently reported that a popular local commercial bank is already extending financing options to assist homeowners with making self-generation a widespread reality.
While upfront investment costs are still somewhat high, this lending facility does make the technology more accessible while its costs continue to decrease.
Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is also an energy security issue. Our unique geography has endowed us with the potential to meet our energy needs from a wide array of sources (solar, ocean thermal, wind and now waste-to-energy) and our existing high energy cost is further incentive for us to seek ways to reduce our significant annual fuel costs.
As mentioned in our previous article, BEC last year spent $385 million on oil which is equivalent to 22.9 percent of the current 2012-2013 budget expenditure, or 8.1 percent of the national debt.
In an effort to highlight the significant benefits this country can accrue from developing a sustainable energy matrix, we generated the chart below based on information contained in the previously referenced BEST Commission report. Of note, this matrix is built only on the area presently supplied by BEC, which represents 75 percent of our present electricity demand.
Ultimately, it shows that over a 20-year period the net social and economic benefit from investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy should accrue to more than $6 billion, or approximately 78 percent of our current GDP (est. $8 billion). Given our current mounting national debt concerns ($4.75 billion), such savings are welcomed and underline the importance of why we need to develop our national energy plan post-haste.
In next week's article, we will seek to conclude our discussion on this very pressing issue by further focusing on the various tools the government can utilize in ensuring we make an honest step forward to achieving our lofty 2030 sustainable energy goals.
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The Green Files asked Stuart Bowe, the president of the Bahamas Hotel Association, on his views about the country's tourism sector going green.
Sonia: Are you generally satisfied with the progress of hotels in The Bahamas to improve energy efficiency, conservation and to incorporate sustainable practices?
Stuart: Many hotels have put in various energy efficiency measures in recent years, but certainly much more can and must be done. This was confirmed in a 2010 detailed energy audit program by the BHA and the government conducted with 18 hotels. The study revealed tremendous opportunity exists to realize greater efficiencies and savings of between 40 percent and 60 percent for many of the hotels.
Sonia: If given the opportunity, would you make any changes to existing legislation or government policies regarding the energy sector, to facilitate hotel properties in utilizing renewable energy?
Stuart: The government has already put in place a number of incentives to encourage greater efficiencies and the use of renewable energy. Customs duties have been eliminated for solar panels and related components such as energy efficient lighting, building insulation, biodegradable items, solar air conditioners and electric vehicles. This is all a step in the right direction. Through the government's National Energy Policy Task Force, the BHA and the Chamber of Commerce have made further recommendations for incentives to purchase other energy efficient items. This would cut back on the payback period and make it more practical for businesses to invest in these savings. We have also recommended that the Bahamas Electricity Act be amended to allow businesses and residents to practice net metering, where energy is produced from solar, wind, or other renewable sources. The process allows for excess energy produced to be redirected back into the public electricity grid system and businesses/residents receive a credit.
Sonia: Do you believe that BEC, WSC and commercial lending agencies are on-board with assisting the hotels in achieving their energy objectives?
Stuart: I believe that all stakeholders realize the potential and are taking steps to address energy issues. The changes require collaboration to address the key issues; behaviors, physical assets applications and policy change. The cost of energy from traditional sources is increasing and we must step up the pace on implementing sustainable programs.
Sonia: In the absence of revised legislation, what might properties do to help themselves?
Stuart: More can be done by hotels and businesses to install energy efficient lighting, improve the use of natural shading, water usage reduction strategies for both guests and staff, better maintenance of refrigeration and technical appliances, in-house staff awareness training, utilization of professional help where needed, and other technical solutions for utility usage.
Sonia: What is your vision for a well developed green tourism sector in The Bahamas?
Stuart: There are tremendous opportunities, particularly for Bahamians, to develop small guest houses, bed and breakfast offerings, lodges, hotels, attractions and amenities, which by design and operation embrace sustainability.
Under the umbrella of "green tourism", these offerings would appeal to the eco and cultural interests of global tourists. Our Family Islands are natural locations, and we must continue to advocate for green tourism initiatives as a matter of business and industry survival.
Send questions or comments to email@example.com.
oSonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.