ERC report tackles revenue collection to support environmental, energy policy

The Economic Recovery Committee’s executive summary report, released by the government yesterday, tackles revenue collection to support environmental policy, through new levies on almost anything that passes through the sovereign borders of The Bahamas and fines on those entities that cause environmental harm in any way.

The ERC report addresses several environmental as well as energy reforms by outlining revenue streams that should be implemented and further emboldening the move towards a much larger and less bureaucratic grasp of renewable energy for individuals and companies.

The ERC contends in its report that revenue streams abound in the environmental sector that can “support a more efficient use of public resources, as well as help to fund a number of critical environmental improvements”.

The committee suggested policy be amended in order to capture certain already-available revenue earners.

“International fees on the trans-Caribbean cables that pass from Florida to Nassau, through The Bahamas’ archipelagic chain to Hispaniola and through the Mona Passage and onto South America,” the report states. “This could possibly be funneled through URCA.”

One of those ready-to-implement policies is to introduce levies on commercial craft coming into the country.

“Introduce levies on cruise ships, submarines and freighters coming into our ports every day on their way to destinations like America and Canada,” the ERC report suggests.

“The proceeds of this fee should go towards efforts to mitigate environmental issues, such as ballast waters being released illegally from foreign vessels as the causative factor in the migration of invasive species such as lion fish.”

The ERC report also suggests that the government tax vacant properties in New Providence subdivisions in order to “increase investment in redevelopment and to facilitate property sales” and introduce a non-refundable deposit for foreign investment applications that would cover the government’s costs associated with examining site plans and considering environmental concerns.

The report also suggests the University of The Bahamas produce independent, definitive reports on the value of the country’s aggregate and extractive industry.

The ERC report insists that energy policy be viewed as a vital component of any long-term strategy to address the reliability, efficiency and costs of energy in The Bahamas.

“The Bahamas is dependent on petroleum products to power about 99 percent of its economy,” the committee states in the report.

“Increasing the share of energy that is generated from renewable resources is an important goal, as identified in the 2013 Bahamas National Energy Policy. In addition, The Bahamas currently faces a number of critical decisions regarding energy sources and decisions that will impact generations to come.

“Government leaders can benefit from exposure to well-informed, expert and bipartisan views that may exceed the capacity of the competent advisors within the government ministries and corporations.”

The ERC report recommends that government establish a multi-sectoral national energy task force with a mandate to advise government on national energy matters; review and update the National Energy Policy; implement consumption reduction programs and policies to help reduce the use of electricity and fossil fuels; and plot the way to electric utility privatization and liberalization.

The ERC’s recommendations seek to remove the limitations imposed on the size of residential and business solar systems and “incentivize independent power producers to start building utility grade renewable energy plants”.

It also calls for, in some cases, the removal of inspections of those systems by Bahamas Power & Light (BPL), given that inspection from the Ministry of Public Works is already required.

The committee also suggests building methods that could lead to higher efficiency living.

“Ban the importation of air conditioning systems and windows that do not meet the minimum energy efficiency criteria, as identified in the CARICOM Regional Energy Efficiency Building Code,” the report states.

“Incentivize existing homeowners to retrofit homes with attic insulation and timers for water heaters through tax concessions (duty currently at 45 percent) and public education.

“Encourage the use of new building methods such as light-weight, timber-framed wall systems, which are insulated to R19 or higher levels, which could yield a possible 30-50 percent reduction in electricity consumed by air conditioning… through tax incentives.”

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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