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Roban envisions thousands of energy producers

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Energy independence is possible in Bermuda if the island moves away from its reliance on a single energy provider, a government minister said.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, travelled to Barbados and Jamaica late last year, where he witnessed a variety of sustainable consumption and energy generation projects.

Mr Roban said: “We have a vision to move us from being an island with one producer of energy to one with thousands of producers of energy; to create an environment where energy independence is possible.

“Bermuda has the potential to be a showpiece of conservation and efficiency.”

He said several energy initiatives are now under way at the ministry including a fund to support the incorporation of renewable technology in Bermuda.

“During our trip to the Caribbean, we saw lots of exciting things happening in the field of energy,” Mr Roban said. “The purpose of the trip was to learn more about the mechanisms and systems in place that create an enabling environment for advances in renewable energy, such as wider electric vehicle adoption, solar photovoltaic developments, and energy efficiency measures.

“Some of those initiatives we know we can reformulate for Bermuda which will result in the creation of new jobs in the energy market, diversification of the energy grid, and bring investment to the island.

“We are looking at developing a smart fund to help support the incorporation of renewable technology in the local community for the average homeowner. We saw a similar programme operating in Barbados with great success. We are looking to Bermudianise that model and bring renewables to our residents at an affordable price-point.

“We are committed to lowering the cost of energy for residents and one of the ways we think we can do this is by making it more affordable for average homeowners to implement renewables in their homes along with conservation and efficiency measures.”

Mr Roban said that Bermuda is also looking to create training opportunities for Bermudians in the renewable energy industry.

“We want to create training opportunities which will allow more people to participate in the installation of renewable energy technologies, such as solar panels. Again, we saw this strategy implemented successfully in Barbados.

“Another thing which struck me while in Barbados, was the proliferation of charging stations throughout the island … they had more charging stations than gas stations! I really believe that we could make significant strides towards cleaner transport if we make the appropriate grid enhancements.

“The Government is also looking at potential partnerships between the public and private sectors in order to expand renewable energy deployment on a commercial scale, which we also saw being done in Barbados. Specifically, we visited a local farm where its entire irrigation system was powered by solar.”

The ministry is in the process of creating a regulatory sandbox that would allow Bermuda to benefit from innovative technology in the energy sector.

Mr Roban said: “The ‘sandbox concept' is a legislative framework which is being worked on by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The framework will allow companies wishing to test large-scale renewable technologies such as wind and wave, many of which aren't on the market to date. The current legislation does not allow non-commercial technology to be incorporated into the energy technologies mix.

“New technologies provide new opportunities for new types of jobs. They also could potentially result in a cleaner environment, less money being spent on fossil fuels and diversification of the grid.”

Government is looking at setting up an Energy Working Group, the ministry said. The group would include key people in Bermuda's renewable energy sector who would provide advice to Government regarding renewable energy. The working group would be loosely modelled off Jamaica's Energy Council, the ministry said.

“It is important that Government work together with those in Bermuda's renewable energy sector,” Mr Roban said. “Going forward, we hope to be able to further leverage the strong ties we have in the Caribbean region to work on the common challenges we all face as islands, regarding energy.”

Mr Roban was accompanied on the overseas visit by Jeane Nikolai, the director of energy, Denton Williams, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Regulatory Authority, and Kyle James, Bermuda Business Development Agency's infrastructure manager.

While in Barbados, the Bermuda contingent met with members of their government's energy department as well as Wilfred Abrahams, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources. They also met with the Fair Trade Commission and Loreto Duffy-Mayers, project lead of the Caribbean Cooling Initiative, and visited Caribbean LED Lighting Ltd.

In Jamaica, they visited the Office of Utility Regulation where they met with the company's director-general Ansord Hewitt as well as Fayval Williams, the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, and principal director of Energy, Fitzroy Vidal.

They also visited Wigton Wind Farm, the region's first utility-scale wind farm and the largest.

Learning mission: Walter Roban, home affairs minister, is pictured during a site visit for a solar installation at Barbados Agriculture Development Marketing Corporation at Fairy Valley, Christ Church (Photograph supplied)
Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, speaks at a meeting of the Jamaica Energy Council (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 18, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated February 18, 2020 at 8:12 am)

Roban envisions thousands of energy producers

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