BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: This country will shortly be replacing almost all of its public street lights with energy-efficient lamps, retrofitting at least 12 government buildings with solar power systems, and deploying energy efficiency and conservation technologies throughout the public sector.
This is all thanks to the recent approval by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) of a US$17-million loan to support the country’s Public Sector Smart Energy program. The program’s resources are expected to be supplemented with a grant from the European Union (EU) of up to €5.8-million (approximately US$7.6-million at the time of the loan’s approval), the first such grant provided by the EU under a framework agreement with the IDB.
On a pilot basis, the program will establish a government fleet of electric vehicles with charging dock stations and its own solar power system.
“This is a pioneering project that could eventually be replicated in other Latin American and Caribbean countries,” said Christiaan Gischler, IDB team leader of the Barbados’ Public Sector Smart Energy program.
The program, which will implement renewable energy solutions and energy-efficiency and conservation measures by government agencies, complements a broad range of policies, programs and actions Barbados is adopting to cut energy costs and reduce its dependence on imported fuel.
Combining all these measures, Barbados would save at least US$45-million over 20 years that can be used for other purposes. The program would also contribute to reducing 132,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the same period.
In addition, the program will fund feasibility studies for an ocean power plant, the first of its kind in this region. It will also finance capacity building for government agencies and public information campaigns to raise citizens’ awareness about renewable energies and energy conservation.
Resources will also be applied to training technicians and professionals in key public sector agencies and in private sector suppliers of services such as solar system installation. The program will focus on encouraging more women to participate in these activities.
“Both the private and public sectors of the country will be actively contributing to the achievement of the overall objective of reducing the country’s fossil fuel dependency,” said Gischler.
“The Barbados’ Public Sector Smart Energy program is an excellent example of the cooperation between the EC and the IDB for promoting sustainable energy in the Caribbean,” said Hubert Perr, Chargé d’Affaires of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
Since 2008, the IDB has been supporting the government of Barbados in the adoption of policies and measures to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Additionally, an Energy Smart Fund for the private sector is currently in operation, targeting small business enterprises, including hotels, to facilitate the purchase of renewable energy and energy efficiency equipment.
Nearly 90 per cent of the energy consumed in Barbados comes from imported oil. According to government data, the fuel import bill is about six per cent of Gross Domestic Product, equivalent to the country’s spending on education.