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Benefits the National Energy Policy can have on construction

 Dear Editor,

As a member of CARICOM, The Bahamas has agreed to implement measures to minimize energy consumption and increase energy efficiency in all sectors of society. According to The Bahamas National Energy Policy 2013-2033, alongside other Caribbean nations, The Bahamas government has committed itself to:

• Promote energy saving measures through the introduction of fiscal incentives and other incentives;

• Implement intensive energy efficiency programs;

• Promote the use and installation of energy-efficient technologies in the construction and renovation of public, commercial and residential buildings, etc.

According to the National Energy Policy, the government has outlined key actions and strategies to be pursued in effort to reduce and/or eliminate energy consumption and wastage and add efficient improvements such as:

• Assisting households and businesses to aggressively adopt energy conservation and efficiency practices;

• Leading the way in energy conservation and efficiency efforts with the private sector and civil society;

• Developing and implementing programs toward energy efficiency while promoting efficient energy usage;

• Exploring energy efficient building designs;

• Providing opportunities for access to clean and consistent information on energy-efficient products and services;

• Incorporating international best practices and findings in design and implementation.

There are many more key strategies and goals outlined in the government’s energy policy. Let’s face it, the cost of electricity usage in The Bahamas continues to increase. As more consumer appliances, residential and commercial building systems demand the need for more electrical power, the ability of our power company (BPL) to constantly provide power is a huge challenge. Some of our outer islands are left without power due to power overload, load-shedding, mechanical generator failures and other component issues. Additionally, summer months increase the responsibility of BPL to provide paying customers with clean, affordable and uninterrupted power supply, even more challenging due to the increased usage of air conditioning systems by consumers and businesses. The result to all of this: skyrocketing electricity bills.

However, there are real strategies that can be implemented by the government that will have a tangible effect in addressing and/or correcting the country’s energy usage and wastage. One of the steps that The Bahamas government can aggressively implement and adopt is an energy standard, such as California Title 24 Residential and Commercial Building Code 2016. California Title 24 is a proven practical example that can be modeled to revamp the 50-year-old conventional design of electrical systems in our buildings. As in the California Title 24 Energy Standard 2016, the application of occupancy/vacancy sensors, time-clocks, daylight harvesting (the use of natural and artificial lighting in a space or building) and dimming, can have tremendous energy efficiency benefits in new construction and renovation projects. These benefits can be a win-win situation for consumers, businesses, and other stakeholders of society. These benefits will provide cost savings while eliminating building energy wastage, thus promoting energy efficiency.

Frankly put, if the government of The Bahamas is serious about improving the country’s energy sector as outlined in its National Energy Policy 2013 – 2033, then we cannot and must not continue to design our building electrical systems in the outdated ways that we continue to, since the age of the incandescent bulb. Whilst changing or replacing light bulbs from incandescent to more energy efficient CFLs, LEDs etc. can provide additional cost savings and energy efficiency, the redesigning of our building electrical systems will prove to have a far better, widespread tangible impact on reduced energy consumption.

Electrical engineers, interior designers, architects and lighting designers/specifiers all play an integral part in changing the way electricity is used in our buildings by end-users. The government must implement policies that will allow property owners and consumers to become aware of the technologies available to them so that they can experience the benefits of lighting and HVAC controls while in the building stages on their projects. As more and more new homes, commercial buildings, hotels, hospitals and schools are being built, we cannot continue to specify only standard switches and light fixtures on electrical drawings, that require the use of 100 percent electric power and no efficiency. New policies need to be implemented that will direct and/or force electrical engineers, architects, etc. to design electrical systems in alignment with modern energy standards, and make these standards a necessary requirement for property owners to obtain occupancy certificates for their projects.

The Bahamas government must remain steadfast in its goal in leading the charge, along with other country’s stakeholders to aggressively adopt energy conservation and efficiency practices to reduce or eliminate energy waste. By designing better, effective electrical systems in our homes, schools, hotels, churches, residential and commercial buildings, cost savings will be passed on to end users, electricity usage and maintenance will decrease at government properties, thus having an overall reduction of electricity demand load on BPL’s utility grid. Today, all over the world, the use of lighting controls such as dimmer switches, time-clocks; HVAC controls, smart thermostats and integrated building management systems provide huge benefits to homeowners, business owners, building facility manages, etc. who are tasked with finding solutions for their families, clients, or employers; to reduce energy usage, wastage and costs.

For business owners, reduced operational costs keep more money in their pockets that can be used to invest in other areas of their business. The same is true for consumers.

As a nation, we must continue to practice energy efficiency, and apply the technological advancements of building systems to better control the ways we use electricity. Every home and building needs some sort of light, whether it is natural light or artificial light. Light is the most used source of energy. Let us then, continue to practice ‘smart’ lighting. Let’s control our light and save money at the same time. We can do it with The Bahamas government leading the charge.

— Raynard McDonald, University of The Bahamas student 

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