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Work on renewable energy coalition under way

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Thomas Olunloyo, CEO of Legal & General Re, believes Bermuda can be leader in adapting cleaner energy solutions (File photograph)

Bermuda has the potential to lead the way in renewable energy adoption, and benefit from greater energy independence and job creation.Work is under way to create a coalition within the public and private sector to make change happen quickly.One of the leading advocates is Thomas Olunloyo, chief executive officer of Bermudian-based Legal & General Re.The reinsurer is part of London-headquartered Legal & General Group, a multinational financial-services company with a growing reputation for climate leadership. Last month, the international Unfriend Coal campaign, which works to encourage businesses such as insurance companies, to pull away from the coal and fossil fuel industries, put L&G at the top of its leadership scorecard. The company is signed up to the Paris Agreement goals of keeping the global rise in temperature to within 2 per cent of pre-industrial levels, said Mr Olunloyo.To help achieve those goals, L&G is aligning its portfolio of direct investments, worth tens of billions of dollars. That means not investing in certain companies with carbon exposure, and doing the same on behalf of its clients. L&G has more than £1 trillion ($1.3 trillion) in assets under management worldwide.“Climate change is the biggest risk facing the world right now and is something we all have to take very seriously,” said Mr Olunloyo.“We want to do business responsibly. We want to do the right thing, and doing the right thing in this context means contributing to this fight against climate change. It is one of the biggest priorities that we have.”He said climate change is a top risk and it is “fundamentally going to change the way we do business and change the world itself”.Mr Olunloyo added: “We do not invest in companies that do not have the same philosophy in tackling climate change.”L&G is also involved in building homes in the UK in an energy-efficient way.The third part of its climate leadership strategy — and the one Mr Olunloyo would like it to do in Bermuda — is investing in renewable energy.Worldwide, it has invested more than a billion dollars in renewable energy.“We are looking to continue that, and also invest in new technologies as well.“We have a stake in Oxford PV, which has developed the most efficient solar panel in the world. We are looking to support them with the roll out of that technology globally, including here in Bermuda.”Mr Olunloyo said: “The vision is that we can dramatically accelerate the adoption of clean energy sources in Bermuda, as is the case around the world.“We are talking about globally a $30 trillion problem — that’s the amount of investment that is required.”Bermuda can be a part of that transformation, and play a role in assisting the rest of the world to do the same.“So what is going to happen in the world in the next 20 or 30 years when you have $30 trillion being invested to meet the climate goals? That is going to create massive new industries, and by doing the same thing in Bermuda we prepare people for that.“A big part of that is education; how do we educate people in Bermuda so they can participate in what is going to be one of the biggest emerging industries in the world?”Bermuda’s small size and the fact it has expressed a desire to scale up the use of renewable energy — as seen in the 2035 goals of the Regulatory Authority’s Integrated Resource Plan — means the island has the potential to make big changes quickly and to be a leader, according to Mr Olunloyo.The IRP is a road map for the island’s energy needs, its aims include seeking benefits from training and job opportunities, stabilised energy prices, cleaner energy, and a reduced carbon footprint for Bermuda.The plan maps out a goal for the island to derive about 85 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035.“It will be a tremendous achievement for Bermuda if it can get there much quicker that the IRP. We can view the IRP as the limit and we should all aspire to achieving this much quicker than that,” Mr Olunloyo said.The question is how to raise the capital needed to make it happen, and then deploy it intelligently to accelerate and deliver change.As it has done elsewhere, L&G can play a role, but the answer is collaboration between the public and private sector.“It’s about playing a part, and everyone stepping up. It’s not about any one company leading or taking credit — no, everyone has to get involved, because it is such a big risk to the world.“It’s too big a problem for one company or organisation to solve. What we need is a coalition to fight climate risk here in Bermuda, with the additional benefits of energy security and energy independence and creating jobs as well,” Mr Olunloyo said.“We want to build this coalition across the private and public sectors, but also across multiple parts of the private sector, not just investors, but installers, those who develop the panels and technologies, and really find the best way to implement a clean energy strategy in Bermuda.“That is the most impactful way we can do it efficiently and quickly.”In October, Mr Olunloyo and Laura Mason, the London-based CEO of Legal & General Retirement, Institutional, met with Walter Roban, Minister of Home Affairs. They discussed investment and partnership regarding renewable energy projects.Mr Roban said the partnership was in line with the Bermuda Government’s sustainability programmes. He added: “The time to embrace new approaches towards achieving more energy independence, while creating jobs and greater equity in the community, is now.”When asked about the meeting, Mr Olunloyo said the outcome was that L&G is looking at ways to invest in partnership with the Government, and to deploy capital to make clean energy investments in Bermuda in the relatively near term.He added: “The other part is talking to other people in the industry about building this partnership and coalition where we bring together those who have capital, who have expertise and can provide the right governance and structure to make it happen.“Most importantly to create a consumer platform. How do you make this real and work for everybody in Bermuda.“Having the right consumer platform where you can support individual households in making the changes themselves in a very affordable way, and going beyond financing solar panels on the roof, and batteries.“Can we have a car exchange programme where you can change your petrol or diesel car for an electric car, and subsidise that as part of that programme?”He said there are tremendous things that can be done in Bermuda not only to decarbonise electricity generation, but the day-to-day way of life of a population.“What makes Bermuda great is you can actually achieve it here in a relatively short amount of time. The technology is out there. Once we have the capital and coalition we can make this happen.”So when will people see things happening?Mr Olunloyo said: “We are following these two strands of strategy. One is what can we do ourselves in the relatively near term? We want to be able to spend real money and start making those investments here.“In terms of the coalition we want to start building that now, and deliver something on that. Let’s make 2020 a year of change.”He added: “We need to do it quickly and position Bermuda as a leader in this space, so people in Bermuda can develop the skills to really contribute to this future economy. We can create so many jobs here.”

Shining example: Bermuda could show the world how to scale up renewable energy (File photograph)
Home affairs minister Walter Roban with Thomas Olunloyo, the CEO from Bermuda-based Legal & General Re, who in October discussed investment and partnership regarding renewable energy projects (Photograph supplied)