Introducing the Energy White Paper: A national energy transition
Last month, after two and a half years of dedicated work from a small team, the Department of Energy presented their 2011 Bermuda Energy White Paper: A National Energy Transition to the public.
The purpose of this series of articles is to ensure that the public gets a good understanding of the document so that the relevance to everyday life can be appreciated and its measures embraced. Ultimately, we hope to answer the fundamental question: Why Should We Care?
Let’s start with the first chapter, which essentially lays the foundation for all of the policies of the Paper.
The Department of Energy was created in response to a specific recommendation in the 2008 Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan (SD Plan) for Bermuda, and work began immediately on the Energy Green Paper, published in February of 2009.
The point of this document was to provide a basis for public consultation, by collecting as many suggestions and insights into how best to address the challenges we face regarding energy.
The White Paper was the direct result of extensive consultation with some of the best minds in the business, most with a shared vision of a more sustainable Bermuda.
The three main goals of the White Paper are to reduce fossil fuel dependency, to ensure an affordable and secure energy supply, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below the equivalent of 1 metric ton of CO2 per person by 2050. But why? And how?
Every year, we import about 1.75 million barrels of oil (fossil fuel) for our electricity and transportation requirements, which equates to about 27 barrels a year per person or 1,134 gallons for each man, woman and child in Bermuda.
The price we currently pay for electricity is about three (or more) times higher than the North American average.
This vast difference in prices is due to many factors, some of which include diversity of power generation, geographic location and market share to name a few.
At most gas stations, we pay the equivalent of nearly $8 a gallon, twice the US national average, due to a combination of our geographic isolation, small market share and relatively high overhead costs incurred by local fuel importers.
Put simply we pay roughly $2,700 per person, each year, on fossil fuels. For a family of four, that’s almost $11,000 of the family budget used on fuel.
If that family were able to save only 20 percent of that expenditure, then that would be about $2,200 each year back in their pockets.
It’s an opportunity to keep that money saved in Bermuda’s economy, which we all need.
We definitely need these changes now, given the economy, but imagine what could happen to that price per barrel when supplies aren’t increasing, but worldwide demand is growing. It would certainly rise.
Think also about the finite nature of fossil fuels, in that there are no more being produced what’s in the earth is all we have, and logic would dictate that there will come a point where there is simply less and less available.
This is what the theory of peak oil is about, and some of the world’s experts believe we have already reached that point, where we’re facing less and less production with increasingly higher demand.
Let’s look also at climate change.
There is some debate on whether current climatic warming trends are caused by human activity, but leading scientists believe that this causal relationship in fact true, and if we all do nothing, then our planet will not be hospitable to sustain human life in the very near future.
It simply makes good sense to hedge on the side of caution and do what we can to reduce our carbon emissions as much as possible.
Fortunately, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will also mean a reduction in fossil fuel use giving that economic benefit noted above.
Here’s another fact: Our greenhouse gas emissions are more than twice the worldwide average, at more than 14.44 metric tonnes CO2 per capita.
Using our current average, the White Paper is proposing a 30 percent reduction below 2008 levels, or a target of 10 metric tonnes CO2 equivalent by 2020.
We may be only a small Island community, but there is no excuse for us to exempt ourselves from the responsibility we expect from the rest of the world. The impacts of climate change would be irrecoverable for us. Our coastlines would change dramatically, our flooding problems in low-lying areas would become much more severe, and so there is moral imperative for playing our part.
It is important to note that this policy paper is a nine-year plan, not a thirty-nine year plan, and that these first goals will require nothing short of a national transition.
The Government is ready to work with the local electric utility and many other participants in order to best serve the Island as a whole. All sectors of business can benefit from the initiatives outlined in the White Paper.
In the next edition of the Green Pages, we will explore Chapter 2 of the White Paper.
In the meantime, think of how much money you could put in your pocket through simple measures! If that’s captured your interest, then have a look at the Department of Energy’s website www.energy.gov.bm to learn what you can do.