Over the past decade, The Bahamas has made little headway in fulfilling the National Energy Policy’s (NEP) commitment to generating 30 percent of its renewable energy by 2030, and the country’s main power provider, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), faces a daunting task in making up the difference before the deadline.
According to data obtained by The Nassau Guardian, less than one percent of the energy used in The Bahamas is renewable.
The wording of the NEP makes the target that much more elusive.
When it speaks to energy, it means what is produced for use, rather than the capacity to produce or the ability to satisfy the demand.
As it stands, about 0.7 percent of all the electrical energy used by BPL’s customers comes from renewable energy.
In terms of capacity, BPL could provide a maximum of 1.9 percent of energy needed at the highest point of customer load demand from renewable energy.
Minister of Utilities and Works Alfred Sears admitted The Bahamas has “a lot of ground to cover” when compared to some regional counterparts that have already integrated solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy.
And he acknowledges meeting the goal “will not be achieved overnight”.
However, The Nassau Guardian has confirmed with government officials that the company is in the early stages of getting renewable energy projects online.
Goal three of the NEP aims for The Bahamas to become a world leader in the development and implementation of sustainable energy opportunities.
“For The Bahamas, as for many non-oil producing nations, the development and diffusion of renewable energy resources and technologies will help realize important economic, environmental and social objectives,” reads the report, which was released in 2013.
“Renewable resources such as wind, solar, waste-to-energy and biomass are indigenous to the country, and if developed adequately, can provide cleaner, and in the long term, more affordable alternatives to fossil fuels. This will not only lower the country’s oil bill but also will improve energy security through diversification of the energy base.
“Also, increased use of renewable energy will lessen environmental impacts and reduce the country’s carbon footprint – and thus its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation Executive Director Casuarina McKinney-Lambert said the shift to renewable energy is “very much needed” in The Bahamas, where many islands have been plagued by frequent power outages during summer months when energy consumption is higher.
She said there is an opportunity for The Bahamas to be a country powered by the sun.
“It makes so much sense for us to really embrace renewables, particularly solar and wind,” McKinney-Lambert said.
“It makes sense from so many perspectives – financial perspective and from an environmental perspective as one of the countries is most vulnerable in the world to the negative impacts of climate change. So, we have an opportunity to take a very bold move as we move forward in this transition.”
Save the Bays Chairman Joe Darville also agreed that a move to renewable energy will be a good one for The Bahamas.
However, he expressed doubt that The Bahamas will be able to achieve 30 percent in less than seven years.
“The speed and the rapidity with which we do it is necessary, and it must begin immediately for us to reach that particular goal,” Darville said.
“At the present time, with the infrastructure that we have and the way we are getting our resources and so forth to run the country, it seems to be a dream and not a mere reality. Some really dramatic things need to be done.”
Last month, while speaking at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, Prime Minister Philip Davis said the government was reviewing proposals in renewable energy sources, especially solar.
He said it will use reverse-metering to credit those who generate more electricity than they use.
“This is essential to reducing the costs of living and the costs of doing business in The Bahamas,” said Davis, who was deputy prime minister and minister of works when the National Energy Policy was released.
“The government of The Bahamas is also transitioning the government fleet to electric vehicles and retrofitting government buildings with renewable energy components.”
Davis pointed to an agreement signed with the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank in March.
He said the agreement was signed to support the construction of solar energy projects, including two microgrids for generation and storage capacity in Abaco, where the electricity infrastructure was badly damaged by Hurricane Dorian – a Category 5 storm that caused more than $3 billion in damage in 2019.
Since it was elected in September, the Davis administration has launched a campaign calling for more action to address climate change, which is considered the biggest issue of the 21st Century.