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Barbados must embrace alternative energy to maintain competitive edge – Stuart

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says Barbados’ high oil importation bill leaves the island with no option but to seek alternative forms of energy to maintain its competitive edge in the Caribbean.

Figures released here show that the island spends an estimated BDS$787 million (One Barbados dollar = US$0.50 cents) annually on importing oil into the country.

“This expenditure has undermined our competitiveness and distorted electricity rates to an unprecedented extent.  This situation has become the greatest challenge of our time and we cannot continue business as usual,” Stuart said.

He said that the government is involved in various efforts to develop indigenous energy resources that would feed renewable energy gradually into the energy mix.

Prime Minister Stuart outlined factors which he said were integral to the realisation of this effort including the intensification of efforts to maximise production of crude oil and natural gas both onshore and offshore; the diversification of the energy mix to make the use of natural gas and other non-liquid fuels more pronounced in the economy; the island-wide introduction and maintenance of energy conservation and energy efficiency measures.

“We must be cognisant of the reality that fossil fuels will be with us for some time.   That is why we are seeking to develop Barbados’ offshore petroleum sector which seeks to access the benefits from the island’s potential natural resources now and in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government says it has awarded three contracts to companies to outfit 19 government buildings, including nine schools with solar photovoltaic systems.

Prime Minister Stuart said that the initiative would “capture the interest and imagination of the next generation which will give impetus to this effort in making renewable energy truly the engine of the economy”.

Stuart said that the private sector would be playing a major role in the roll-out of government’s energy awareness plan next year that would see the installation of solar photovoltaic systems on over 40 government buildings.

He said similar energy systems would be installed on hurricane shelters which would also be equipped with the necessary back-up power that would enable them to function effectively in the event of a hurricane or any other emergency.

“In the same way that we pride ourselves on the penetration of solar water heaters, the next frontier is the erection of solar electricity systems and the use of other renewable energy sources.”

Barbados has joined other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries in observing November 11-17 as CARICOM Energy Week is focusing mainly on building awareness about energy conservation and efficiency, and the development of renewable energy.

The CARICOM Secretariat said the Caribbean depends heavily on imported petroleum and petroleum products to the tune of nine billion US dollars annually over the last few years.

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