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The Christie administration's National Energy Policy, which has already drawn some harsh criticism on its pronouncements on renewable energy, hangs on four strategic goals, and seeks to support a vision of a Bahamian energy sector that is "modern, diversified and efficient" and provides Bahamians with "affordable energy supplies and long-term energy security towards enhancing international competitiveness and sustainable prosperity".
Each of these goals is supported by strategies aimed at bringing the policy into actual practice.
The first goal of the policy is for Bahamians to become aware of the importance of energy conservation, to use energy wisely and continuously pursue opportunities for improving energy efficiencies, "with key economic sectors embracing eco efficiency".
The policy separates the strategic actions by relevance, calling on households and businesses to develop and
implement programs to influence market behavior toward energy efficiency. It also encourages them to promote efficient use of energy, and goes on to highlight the use of energy-efficient appliances and equipment and the importance in exploring options for energy efficient building designs. The policy looks to set and enforce standards for public sector organizations.
The policy also urges the private sector to provide opportunities for access to clear and consistent information on energy efficient products and services; it encourages businesses to conduct independent energy audits, the costs of which would be deductible from business license fees for the year an audit is carried out.
Bahamians should, according to the policy, develop programs to facilitate the infusion of energy conservation and efficiency (ECE) across the curricula in all levels of the educational system; identify energy efficiency skills requirements across the economy and associated training, accreditation and higher education needs; establish networks and partnerships with government, private sector and academia to promote the development of energy efficient technologies and - particularly in the information arena - develop an energy information clearing-house, using information and communication technologies that will enable information to be easily accessible and available in a user-friendly format to relevant stakeholders.
The policy calls for development of institutional capacity to implement demand-side energy management programs. It also calls for the commercial sector to ensure an adequate supply of energy efficient products, goods and services and to promote energy efficient standards and product labelling.
Citing the government as a "leader in energy conservation and efficiency", the policy cites strategies designed to enable the government to become a model of efficient energy usage and environmental stewardship, resulting in a reduction in the public sector consumption of energy and other resources and providing a stimulus for private sector and community action.
According to the policy, the government must ensure that its ministries and agencies develop and implement environmental stewardship action plans, with special emphasis on energy and fleet management, including the initiation of energy audits in the first instance.
The government must also increase efforts to ensure the capital projects are evaluated for its potential to incorporate more energy efficiency technologies within the scopes of the projects. For example, housing subdivisions.
The policy urges the private sector and industry to support and assist in the establishment of energy service companies (ESCOs) that derive their incomes by generating energy savings for their clients.
Private sector and industry actors are also urged to facilitate the development of a national approach to encourage companies to develop internal systems to assess and prioritize energy efficiency opportunities.
The policy calls for: the promotion of best practices and innovation within energy-using corporations and the energy services sector, through case studies; the promotion of best practices in design of new hotels and industrial facilities; retrofitting existing hotels and industrial facilities to maximize energy efficiency and reduce operational costs, thus assisting businesses to retain or expand staffing; and the facilitated sourcing of low-cost development funds for productive enterprises for energy technology projects.
The policy calls for the creation of relevant legislation to support required investments in energy efficiency, and the provision of incentives for the use of innovative/clean technologies in power generation to improve energy efficiencies.
It urges legislators to: design and introduce appropriate financing mechanisms to facilitate the spread of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; develop an energy labeling program; conduct periodic reviews and updates of building code in respect of energy efficiency; and incorporate requirements for the efficient use of energy in buildings.
The Ministries of Works and Urban Development, Environment and Housing, Transport and Aviation, Finance, Education and Labour and National Insurance are envisioned as the facilitating actors in respect of this goal.
The Caribbean must develop a more efficient regional regulatory framework if it is to overcome the current barriers to investment in its growing energy sector, according to a leading CARICOM official.
CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque stressed the importance of finding the right mix of public and private sector investment in increasing energy capability throughout the region, during a panel at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) in Washington, D.C., stating that CARICOM members require stronger local and regional coordination efforts.
"Coordination is a key part in seeking to allow for the region to derive the skills that it requires in moving towards its renewable energy targets. Coordination on a local level is important, but equally important is coordination on a regional level.
Although LaRocque felt that CARICOM member states had done a sufficient job in setting national targets for renewable energy, he said that a "common vision" is required to attract the necessary funding to make the Caribbean's dreams of energy security a reality.
"For us energy is an economic cost. Our competitiveness to a large extend is affected by the high cost of energy and our very survival in terms of being able to provide our goods and services is threatened. There's no pushback, where we're going to have to do more work is in how we seek to arrive at a regional regulatory framework," said LaRocque.
While he anticipated a fair amount of difficulty in developing an appropriate regulatory environment for Caribbean investment, he believed that the region could look to Central America for a similar model.
The energy summit gathered delegates from across the Caribbean to explore methods of reducing the cost of energy in the region. The Bahamian government has committed to having a renewable energy input of 30 percent by 2030, while CARICOM currently seeks 20 percent alternate energy penetration by 2017.
LaRocque was joined by President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Luis Alberto Moreno, who said that energy costs continue to be one of the most challenging economic hurdles for Caribbean countries, noting that the region's energy prices are roughly triple that of U.S. households.
"The reality is that we are in a very unique moment. There is no question that the changes in the prices of energy allow the Caribbean to do things that otherwise would have been difficult in the past. At the same time, we're in a world economy that is almost now running on just one engine and that is the U.S. economy," said Moreno.
President of Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. William Smith and David Anderson, parliamentary secretary in Canada's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, rounded out the panel as they identified the barriers to financing renewable and alternate energy projects in the Caribbean, with Anderson touching on the critical role of donors in future projects.
"We find that investment into many of these emerging economies is restrained across critical sectors, including energy, often because of perceived risks in the markets. Donors can play a critical role in reducing the barriers to investment and creating sustainable growth and we believe that we can be a part of that," said Anderson.
Smith stated that even though the recent plummet in crude oil prices represents a welcome relief, it did not address the regional problem. CDB research had projected that Caribbean energy prices still remain at least double or triple the respective costs in the U.S. with the reduction of oil to $45 dollars a barrel.
"There is no question that even with the prices as they are today, the Caribbean still has a competitiveness problem," he said.
Smith agreed with LaRocque that the Caribbean needs a broad-based, multi-country regulatory framework to make investment in the energy sector feasible, adding that the old age and small scale of local power plants had significantly impacted the region's competitiveness.
"There is the challenge of investing and replacing those plants, even if you were to even go with the previous fuels or go with renewables. You have that inherent problem of small scale and lack of investment over time. The private sector, the main producing sector in the Caribbean, then faces the challenge of competing with a real impediment," said Smith.
The U.S. announced that it would use its Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to finance projects in middle-income Caribbean countries, while Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar proposed a $1 billion Caribbean Energy Thematic Fund for CARICOM member states to address regional energy security, which will be housed at the IDB.
Coinciding with the energy summit was the announcement of a nearly $43 million loan from OPIC to finance a 36 megawatt capacity wind farm in Jamaica. Future success could arguably lead to the deployment of similar projects in The Bahamas' Family Islands, including Eleuthera and the Exumas, where wind generation pilot projects have already launched.
DPM/Minister of Works and Urban Development addresses Chamber of Commerce-"The Bahamas Energy Policy and Behaviour"
As an Opposition Force, the Progressive Liberal Party noted that more than 6,000 families were forced to function daily without electricity, causing untold hardship to families, and that BEC’s rates made the country uncompetitive in many business areas...
The Bahamas' signing onto SIDS DOCK at the United Nation's Third International Small Island Developing States Conference this week has been described as "monumental", as it will assist the country by providing access to funding that would allow for the investment in, and deployment of, renewable energy technologies throughout the country.
SIDS DOCK is a treaty designed to help finance the transformation of the energy sectors of small island developing states in order to achieve a 25 percent increase in energy efficiency, generation of a minimum of 50 percent of electric power from renewable energy resources and a 25 percent decrease in conventional transportation fuel use in order to significantly increase financial resources to enable climate change adaptation.
The SIDS DOCK will allow The Bahamas to access grants from a fund that has been contributed to by a number of the developed countries.
Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett said: "The signing of the document marked its execution, bringing it into statute and creating a financial mechanism for the SIDS DOCK to be capitalized upon to be able to provide funding for SIDS countries for the transformation from fossil fuels-based generation of energy to renewable energy," Dorsett said.
"This was timely for The Bahamas based on the energy sector reform that we are currently advancing and certainly it will become a resource that could be made available to The Bahamas for the deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout The Bahamas.
"We will be utilizing these funds to focus on the deployment of renewable energy technologies primarily solar," Dorsett said. "There may be certain components where we advance wind, but certainly the photovoltaic systems and solar water heaters will become a priority for us."
Dorsett said a by-product will be energy conservation and efficiency "and helping our citizenry to understand what they can do as a part of us reducing our carbon footprint".
He said the government of The Bahamas has already paved the way in this area by "slashing" customs duties on the importation of solar panels and inverters to advance the renewable energy technology deployment and LED bulbs, to ensure that consumers make better choices when it comes to buying those things.
"The duties have been reconfigured to ensure that you pay less customs duty for energy-efficient appliances to ensure that we point our citizenry in the right direction as far as the consumer choices that they make," Minister Dorsett added.
Data indicates that persons who have switched to solar water heaters, for example, have registered major savings in their energy bills.
"Bahamians do not realize how much electricity is used to create hot water in their homes and the installation of solar water heaters can provide them with cost savings (as) data indicates that persons who have switched to solar water heaters have registered savings in their energy bills from between 15 to 30 percent and so we will be utilizing funds (derived from being a signatory to the SIDS DOCK) to focus on the deployment of renewable energy technologies - particularly solar - throughout The Bahamas."
Dorsett said SIDS DOCK has already been "very helpful" to small island developing states such as The Bahamas in terms of creating new frameworks and policies to advance the renewable energy agendas.
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.