Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday called on the business community to provide more opportunities for Bahamians to access renewable energy.
“Having regard to where the world has gone since the days when I was a little boy, it is clear that, as a people, we have failed to take advantage of the advances in technology and the availability of alternative energy sources, whether as a nation or in terms of individual consumers,” said Bethel, as he opened debate in the Senate on the Value-Added Tax (Amendment No. 2) Bill, 2018.
“I think that going forward we have to have a more engaged response and embrace of the emerging renewable sources of energy and move away, to the extent that we can, from carbon-based, non-renewable, market force-driven sources of energy.
“If we look at the realities that we have 365 days of the year, and more than 300 days in The Bahamas are sunny days, and even with a little bit of cloud that doesn’t stop the radiation from the sun reaching solar panels, we are really frittering away something that is really a gift from God to us; because the technologies are now as such that we are able to harness this God-given gift and to do so really in a targeted way.
“And so going forward, I’m sure that we, as a people, need to design tax exemptions, tax structures and support mechanisms in such a way that we can make the use of solar or wind or alternative renewable energy resources more easily available to ordinary Bahamians.
“… I would hope that, going forward, we would look very carefully at ways to provide real incentives and opportunities for ordinary Bahamians to access.”
Bethel said this is more than the role of the government, but something the nation as a whole needs to address, including lending institutions, social institutions, credit unions, banks, business houses and more.
“It is not simply a question of what the government does; it’s also a question of what the drivers of the economy are prepared to do,” he added.
“And so, from this humble position here, I call on all of those movers and shakers in our economy to rethink where we are going, to rethink how we can all assist each other in exploring, utilizing and benefiting from that gift that the good Lord has given these blessed isles, these isles of June, this land of eternal summer, at least 300 days of good sunshine, and that’s free of charge.”
The bill seeks to raise the VAT exemption on electricity bills from $200 and under to $300 and under from November 2018 to July 2019.
The government had originally announced that electricity bills $100 or lower would be exempt from VAT, but later increased the ceiling to $200 after public outcry.
The government increased VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent in July.
Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) bills have spiked in recent months. BPL officials say this is due to higher oil prices, leading to an increase in the fuel surcharge.
The fuel surcharge typically makes up the majority of electricity costs for the consumer. BPL passes on the charge directly to the consumer.