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In a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on October 8, the world’s leading climate scientists warned that there is only a dozen years for global warming to be capped at a maximum of 1.5C.

To achieve this, urgent and unprecedented changes are needed, and any rise in temperatures above 1.5C significantly worsens the risks of drought, floods, more intense hurricanes, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Carbon emissions would have to be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 and come down to zero by 2050. The IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, and it upgraded its risk warning from previous reports warning that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.

“The scientists who reviewed 6,000 works referenced in the report, said the change caused by just half a degree came as a revelation — ‘We can see there is a difference and it’s substantial’.”¹

In a Brookings Institute² piece on the IPCC findings, titled “We’re almost out of time: The alarming IPCC climate report and what to do next”, Nathan Hultman, senior fellow for Global Economy and Development, said: “Renewable energy sources would grow by roughly 100 per cent to 500 per cent, reaching about half of total global electricity generation by 2030 — 12 years from now — and 70 per cent to 90 per cent by 2050.

“The report tells us that these pathways are physically and technologically possible, but it is up to us to figure out what social and political approaches we have to take to implement those pathways.

“The only strategy that works is one that fully engages all levels of action, which includes personal actions but also includes policy and decision-making in all other communities and groups: cities, towns, counties, states, countries; places of work; businesses and investors; universities; communities of faith, and more.

“Each of these has ways they can address the issue. One recent example of this is in the US, where a coalition of over 3,500 cities, states, businesses, and more, have recommitted to doing their part to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“A real and deep-rooted engagement with this issue could realise a genuinely improved quality of life in all parts of the world, with dramatically better outcomes on human wellbeing, economic growth and health.”

So how are we doing here in Bermuda? The Government has taken a big step in the right direction with its newly released National Fuel Policy in which it set an aspirational goal of 15 per cent electrical energy use reduction over the next 20 years and, with the new solar rebate programme, which favours lower-income households. However, the latest IPCC report warns that this will not be nearly enough.

The Regulatory Authority of Bermuda, which is in the process of deciding our energy future for the next 20 years, has asked the energy sector to submit plans for bulk generation. Under the new Electricity Act, bulk generation is now open to competition. The two industry players that have subsequently submitted comprehensive integrated resource plans — Belco and Bermuda Engineering Ltd, the owner of BE Solar — envision very different results. Belco is planning for a 4.8 per cent drop in electrical energy use over the next 20 years, while Bermuda Engineering is predicting a 30 per cent drop.

The two companies also have very different visions of Bermuda’s energy future when it comes to renewable energy. Belco is proposing a 12 per cent uptake in renewable energy over the next 20 years, while Bermuda Engineering is planning for 65 per cent.

Hultman says: “We are on a path. This pathway is not new, and we have already begun the transition. Renewable energy deployment has shown remarkable progress, surpassing expectations and surprising analysts. Since 2012, more than half of new electricity power additions have been renewables. The cost of solar has fallen over 70 per cent since 2010 and combined renewable costs are falling so rapidly that they are expected to be competitive or cheaper than fossil fuels by 2020. So progress is already happening, in clean energy and many other areas relating to climate stabilisation — it’s just that we need to go faster and do more, which requires choices and policy.”

In Bermuda, we will include large-scale renewables in our future energy supply mix and when we do, we will still need Belco’s generators, but its role will change from the primary power source to one of load-balancing. The question is, will we do it soon enough?

The RAB is finalising the IRP, which will decide our energy future. The public have until November 30 to make submissions. Let your voice be heard on this critically important issue; click on electricity@rab.bm — type “IRP response” in the subject heading — to submit your proposal.

¹The Guardian, October 8, 2018 ²The University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think-Tank Index Report has named Brookings “Think-Tank of the Year” and “Top Think-Tank in the World” every year since 2008. The Economist describes Brookings as “perhaps America’s most prestigious think-tank

Nick Hutchings is a member of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce’s energy committee. If you want Bermuda’s energy future to have more renewable energy and you would like more information on how to make a submission, go to betterenergyplan.bm. For tips on saving energy, visit BEST’s website at www.best.org.bm/resources. All other information can be gained by contacting Kim Smith at office@best.org.bm or 292-3782