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Green groups back plan for electric buses

Good news: Kim Smith

Environmental groups have backed a partnership with a US-based organisation designed to transform Bermuda’s transport and energy sectors.

Kim Smith, executive director of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, said the collaboration was “very good news”.

A spokeswoman for Greenrock said that the organisation was “strongly supportive”.

The two were speaking after the Government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a United States-based sustainability organisation, last week.

The Government said the joint effort would develop a plan for an all-electric bus fleet “that will lay the groundwork for a full transition of the transportation sector to electric vehicles”.

A second project will look at renewable energy projects and how to create a stronger power supply network.

Ms Smith said the partnership showed that “Government is serious about putting Bermuda on a sustainable path with regards to energy and transportation”.

She added: “RMI have been bringing policymakers, regulators, utilities and ratepayers together and effectively decarbonising small island economies around the world, and have had very good success working with our neighbours to the south.”

Ms Smith said that a move to electric buses and an eventual changeover to electric vehicles would “benefit the natural, social and economic environments in Bermuda”.

She added that Bermuda deserved a plan “to fast-track clean, affordable and secure renewable energy”.

The Greenrock spokeswoman said that the group backed the move to electric vehicles “as they are significantly less polluting and much less expensive to operate and maintain”.

She said the partnership with RMI was proof that the Government “is moving towards renewable energy and sustainable initiatives which is very positive for the country”.

The spokeswoman added: “In our view, the next natural step for our leaders is to enact legislation that commits us as a country to defined targets in these areas and allows these initiatives to flourish.”

The spokeswoman said that a change to electric vehicles would reduce air pollution, and improve environmental and public health.

But she added: “The source and quality of electricity production becomes increasingly significant as more automotive energy consumption moves from burning fossil fuels to the use of electricity.

“This is one of many reasons why Greenrock supports the Bermuda Better Energy Plan, which sets both realistic and progressive targets for the use of proven renewable energy sources.”

The spokeswoman said Greenrock supported all efforts aimed at increased use of renewable energy.

But she added: “We also recognise that social and economic impacts are both key components that must always be considered comprehensively as well.”

Leah Scott, the shadow minister for transport, said that an all-electric bus fleet would not fix service reliability.

Ms Scott said that the island’s ageing fleet was only partly to blame for of out-of-service buses.

She explained: “Whether the Government imports electric buses or magic carpets is really irrelevant.

“The bus schedule is the issue and this is what must be addressed.”

Ms Scott said that arbitration to create a revised service schedule was the only way the “chronic” bus service problem would be solved.

She also questioned if electric buses would be suited for Bermuda’s terrain and if the country had the capacity to produce the power for the vehicles cheaply. Ms Scott added: “And, of course, the obvious roadblock is funding.

“How will the Government pay for this? The cost savings of transitioning to a fully-electric fleet is at the back end — so how will the Government fund the upfront costs, not just of the vehicle acquisition, but also the corresponding infrastructure?”

Ms Scott said a change to electric vehicles should include an educational campaign, as well as the creation of new regulations.

But she backed the Government’s attempt to reduce pollution and introduce more renewable energy, which she said “have the potential to create more local jobs than traditional energy sources”.

Ms Scott added: “It’s a win-win situation if we can find those projects that are cost-effective for Bermuda.”