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Clean energy independence

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Living large: a plush example of a solar neighbourhood

Bermuda faces an energy state of emergency, grappling with sky-high energy costs driven by our excessive reliance on fossil fuels. The recent fuel adjustment hikes and constant fluctuations serve as a stark reminder of our vulnerability to volatile oil prices.

Many homes and businesses continue to lag in energy efficiency, clinging to outdated appliances, old incandescent light bulbs and inefficient equipment. The Fuel Adjustment Rate, tied to kilowatt-hour consumption, inflates our electricity bills and penalises those properties that have not deployed energy-efficiency measures. By prioritising energy efficiency, residents and businesses can trim their operating costs and help to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

Our energy thirst not only escalates the cost of living and business, but also accelerates greenhouse gas emissions, intensifying the global climate crisis. This unsustainable path demands urgent action. The most alarming consequence of our fossil-fuel dependence is the pollution plaguing Pembroke residents and our local environment.

Rapidly moving away from expensive, unstable and polluting fuels can offer relief to those affected and set Bermuda on a global stage for deploying clean energy.

Decades of research highlight the feasibility of clean renewable energy. Just recently Portugal ran the entire country for six days using renewable energy only. These significant achievements demonstrated that Portugal has been maintaining a sustainable trajectory in integrating renewable sources, while upholding the primary objectives of supply, security and service quality. Leveraging abundant sources such as sunlight, wind and tidal energy, along with advanced technologies for storage and distribution, presents a clear path forward for Bermuda. Streamlined Department of Planning processes, mandatory renewable-energy integration in new construction, and repurposing derelict areas for renewable installations are crucial. Rethinking electricity pricing structures will incentivise working-class and commercial property owners to invest, while modern technology can mitigate weather-related intermittency. Furthermore, upgrading our grid to accommodate large-scale renewable projects, such as wind turbines and solar farms, is well within reach if we have the political will and capital support.

Advances in technology, including smart homes, efficient solar panels and reliable battery storage, enable property owners to create microgrids and weather outages independently. Electric car batteries can also contribute, fostering a distributed energy infrastructure, a model that is already being deployed in other jurisdictions.

Greenrock has conducted feasibility studies recently in partnership with BVG Associates. According to its fourth study released on November 7, forecast electricity costs from an offshore wind farm in Bermuda would be about $0.17/kWh. A 60MW offshore wind farm could generate 34 per cent of Bermuda’s electricity requirements for about 30 per cent to 40 per cent cheaper than generating electricity from imported fossil fuel. Offshore wind turbines, designed for our coastal hurricane prone environment, would stand as sentinels of hope for the people of Bermuda. Wind, combined with solar and sensibly designed battery storage, can significantly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and lead us towards cleaner, more efficient energy sources. This is a reality in Hawaii, where they have embraced renewable energy and storage to meet clean energy targets and have doubled the percentage of renewable energy since 2014. Recently, a 120MWh battery-storage system and 30MW solar project was deployed to provide utility electricity for $0.09 per kWh in Hawaii compared with the $0.33 per kWh utility rate. As another small-island developing state, Hawaii’s success story is an example of what Bermuda can strive towards.

Renewable energy near Belco

We owe a debt of gratitude to Belco, which has provided us with reliable energy for more than 100 years. But now, our grid must evolve. It should not merely support clean energy; it should generate and store electricity efficiently and our sole utility should urgently modernise our grid. We see the potential to transition from a centralised power plant that runs on imported fuel to a distributed model that nurtures our neighbourhoods with clean, renewable energy using electric-vehicle batteries and a mix of sun, wind and wave technology. We have the potential to harness the free power that surrounds us; not just to save money, but to reclaim our energy independence.

This is our call to action, for ourselves and for future generations. Imagine an efficient Bermuda, powered by clean energy. It’s not a dream; it’s a necessity. It’s the path to true resiliency and energy independence.

But we cannot tread this path alone. The Bermuda Government, Regulatory Authority, Belco and the private sector must unite, offering innovative energy leadership and collaborative efforts. Together, we can protect our island’s future, with clean, resilient and sustainable energy so we are not impacted by volatile, expensive and polluting oil. The urgency is clear, and the time to act is now. Bermuda’s future and sustainability depend on it.

Stratton Hatfield

• Stratton Hatfield is the chief sales and marketing officer at BE Solar and a board member of the Bermuda National Trust and Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. He has more than 14 years of experience in business development, consulting, sustainability and design. He is committed to driving responsible growth, implementing ambitious initiatives and providing leadership to help Bermuda and our planet address the climate crisis

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Published November 28, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated November 28, 2023 at 7:49 am)

Clean energy independence

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