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Island faltering on energy, says expert

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Alternative view: photovoltaic panels on a roof (Photograph supplied)

A “call to action” has been made by the team behind an alternative energy plan that would mean nearly two thirds of Bermuda’s power comes from renewable sources within 20 years.

BE Solar claimed the island is failing to keep up with the international drive to develop schemes that will cut down on harmful gases and tackle climate change.

It joined forces with British-based sustainability engineering firm Etude to produce a 56-page report as an alternative to the Integrated Resource Plan already put forward by utility company Belco. The document sets out a proposal for an offshore wind farm with turbines set up six miles west of Dockyard and a rise in the amount of solar projects.

It is one of eight alternative schemes that use a range of technologies — including liquefied natural gas and wave energy — filed with the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda, which is seeking responses from the public before consultation closes at the end of this month.

Alan Burland, the BE Solar president, said: “What’s critically important is that the people of Bermuda clock in on this subject and that they respond to the Regulatory Authority.

“If they have a view, and they feel that Bermuda can and should do better, they should write in and voice their opinion, they’re open to do that but they only have until November 30 so it is a call to action. This is just too important for future generations to be casual and lackadaisical on.

“It’s critical to our economy, it’s critical to our social fabric. I can’t think of a more important issue on the table at the moment.”

Mr Burland described the measures in his company’s report as “tried and tested ... proven technology”.

He said uptake of solar and wind energy elsewhere has been “exponential” and added: “Bermuda is seriously getting left behind, we must get up and get cracking.”

Stuart Kriendler, the BE Solar managing director, said the company came up with the Bermuda Better Energy Plan, as it was concerned that very few island residents were aware of the IRP and that the Belco proposal “locks us into volatile foreign fossil fuels and high electricity rates”.

He also believed potential businesses were increasingly turning away from Bermuda as operation on the island would not work within their “environmental charters”.

Mr Kriendler said millennials and “cultural creatives” prefer places such as the Cayman Islands, which is perceived to be “a cleaner destination” that better fits their values.

The report’s “optimum renewables” scenario suggests an offshore wind farm online in the next five years would “significantly reduce” fossil fuel use in a single project.

Capital costs for this were estimated at $300 million although the team pointed out that future projections were favourable as the “fuel is free”.

Several thousand electric vehicles would feature and by 2038, the proposal states, wind and solar would provide 64 per cent of the island’s energy “for a stable cost”.

The report said about $100 million a year would remain in the local economy that “historically would have been spent importing fuel”.

Chris Worboys, a Bermudian who works for Etude, said: “We get a 62 per cent reduction in CO² emissions — a big improvement in terms of climate change — and a significant reduction in other air emissions which are harmful to human health.”

He continued: “Ten years ago, when all this conversation started and the department of energy was formed, back at that time the UK had pretty much no renewable energy.

“Last week, there was a day when about 47 per cent of the UK’s total electricity supply came from wind.

“When I return to Bermuda and look at the progress, on a sunny day maybe two per cent of the electricity is coming from solar, that really shows the lack of progress.”

Along with colleagues Dora Ma and Thomas Lefevre, Mr Worboys travelled to Bermuda to deliver a presentation last week at a public meeting hosted by BE Solar and environmental charity Greenrock in Hamilton.

Dr Ma pointed out that BE Solar did not request for solar energy to be included in the final proposal and the team “genuinely went on a journey to find out the best thing for Bermuda”.

Eugene Dean, a Greenrock director, described the Bermuda Better Energy Plan as a “no-brainer”.

He believed the IRP had a “huge reliance on fossil fuels” and failed to include innovation and new technologies.

Mr Dean added: “It seemed like nothing that has been happening in the last ten to 15 years has been incorporated in this, it just looks like more of the same.”

Other alternatives to the IRP have been made by BCM McAlpine and Bouygues Energies and Services; Bermuda Environment Energy Solutions Group, Louis Berger Power and Corcon; Bermuda General Agency; Brad Sorenson and Arpheion; Enviva and Albioma; Offshore Utilities and Sol Petroleum Bermuda Limited.

To read a summary sheet of the Bermuda Better Energy Plan and the full proposals, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”. All consultation documents can be viewed on the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda’s website at https://rab.bm/electricity-public-consultations/

Alan Burland (File photograph)
Chris Worboys (Photograph taken from Etude website)
Dora Ma (Photograph taken from Etude website)
Eugene Dean, of Greenrock (Photograph supplied).