High time to deploy energy resilience
Our world has changed immensely in the past few weeks, yet amid the upheaval and distress, there are reasons to believe that we can emerge from the Covid-19 crisis and change the status quo.
Bermuda has an opportunity to lead by example and to implement new programmes and policies to create jobs, reduce the cost of living and establish more resilience. Now is the time to act with innovation and a sense of urgency — and act we must.
A sad reality is that this terrifying and destructive global pandemic is just a preview of the increasingly severe disruptions that climate change will bring in the future.
With this looming threat in mind, humanity has a unique opportunity to build a better world and to create more sustainable systems that provide more resilience to communities.
While Bermuda may not be in the same boat as larger countries, we are in the same storm and have a responsibility to prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change to our island. It is not a matter of if but how climate change will affect our livelihoods and community in the future.
One way for Bermuda to prepare for climate change is to ensure that we deploy more distributed renewable energy around the island. As the potential of stronger hurricanes looms, we must consider how to create an energy infrastructure that can be less centrally isolated, smarter and powered with clean renewable energy.
Energy is the lifeblood of our society and a critical component to Bermuda operating and prospering, and we need a strong, reliable utility to support that. As of now, the majority of our energy is supplied by imported fossil fuel, which has driven up the cost of living and business for decades.
This fuel, while dropping in price at present, is a volatile resource that we are heavily dependent on. Not only does the burning of fossil fuel contribute to climate change, relying on it makes Bermuda more susceptible to vulnerability in times of a crisis, such as climate-change events.
According to the United States Department of Energy, the renewable-energy sector employs 777,000 people in America and within this industry the most rapid renewable-energy job growth has come from the solar and wind sectors. By comparison, the coal industry, which has been declining, now employs 160,000 workers, which is less than one quarter of those Americans in the renewable-energy industry. The solar industry continues to be an engine of job growth around the world, demonstrating that local economies can adapt to this progressive trend.
Ten years ago, there were only 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity globally; by the end of 2019, the world’s installed solar power had jumped to about 600GW. For perspective, 1GW produces enough energy to power approximately 300,000 homes. Bermuda has an opportunity to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel, to keep more money in our local economy and, most importantly, to create more jobs while preparing for the foreseeable effects of climate change.
Enabling the solar-energy industry to grow will help to address all these areas and the overwhelming evidence couldn’t be clearer.
Bermuda has a great opportunity to pivot during this pandemic and to aggressively deploy the renewable-energy plans within the Integrated Resource Plan. The IRP sets out ambitious targets to achieve 85 per cent renewable energy by the end of 2035 and these goals will be achieved only if the private and public sectors collaborate to initiate investments. The IRP outlines goals to deploy distributed solar and utility solar projects around the island. Distributed solar projects are intended to be smaller-scale projects on homes and businesses. These projects are “lower hanging fruit” and more easily achievable with private-sector collaboration.
Deploying these projects will help properties to reduce their operating costs while helping Bermuda to be less reliant on foreign, imported fossil fuel and to become more energy-resilient.
In Bermuda, we pay some of the highest electricity rates in the world, yet on an annual basis, 82 per cent of our days are sunny. Taking into account the 25 to 30-year warranted life of solar panels, a solar system produces clean renewable energy at a fraction of the cost of Belco for decades.
Bermuda has a reliable source of free natural energy that we can source indefinitely, and now is the time to focus on using solar to create jobs, save money and to become more resilient. As we emerge from this pandemic and prepare for the long-term impacts that climate change will endure upon us, it is important for businesses and homes to consider what sort of legacy they want to leave.
To paraphrase the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, we must act as if our house is on fire — because it is! Now is the time to move towards a more resilient energy future for Bermuda, and our community needs all hands on deck.
• Stratton Hatfield is the Director of Development at BE Solar and an advocate for renewable energy and resilience. He holds a Master of Science degree in Sustainability Entrepreneurship&Design
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