Barbados’ transition to renewable energy is expected to be boosted by the construction of a $25 million 10 megawatt solar plant, within a year, at Mangrove, St Philip.
And, officials from the Barbados Workers’ Union, Barbados National Oil Company Limited, and Emera Caribbean signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Thursday, to bring the plant to fruition. It will be on 32-acres of land at the BWU’s Mangrove, St Philip property.
Minister of Energy and Business Development, Kerrie Symmonds, underscored the importance of the project, and described the joint venture as “unprecedented”.
He expressed the view that the partnership would go down in history as a model for investment, as he stressed the significance of labour being a part of this new commercial space.
Speaking before the signing of the MOU, at the BWU’s Solidarity House Auditorium, Symmonds continued: “This is going to be expenditure that we anticipate to go in the vicinity of $25 million. It is vitally important for us to recognise that the journey that we’re now on aligns completely with that which the Government of Barbados has sought to articulate in its National Energy Policy. The National Energy Policy is very clear that we want to democratise the energy sector in Barbados.”
He said battery storage was key with regard to this project, and disclosed that he had discussions in this area as recently as Thursday morning.
“This project anticipates battery storage. I say to the public, that it is not only about PV (photovoltaics), it must also be about wind investment, and it will also be about the battery storage which assists us in making sure that we have a stable grid,” he explained.
Symmonds proffered the view that renewable energy technology must be accessed by Barbadians of all walks of life, saying that in some countries, there was a technological divide.
General Secretary of the BWU, Toni Moore, said in 2018, the union’s executive council embarked on a plan to use the 32 acres for a renewable energy project.
“We explored the possibility of another housing development, but then it was considered what can we do most meaningfully with the land to get the kind of returns that we were looking for, … returns that would represent our mission….
“So, we determined that we would earmark this land for the development of a renewable energy project,” Moore explained.
She emphasised the importance of the project, which she described as a “fundamental and monumental change”, and suggested that it was fitting for the trade union movement to have “a place at the table” in such a mission.
Chief Operating Officer at Emera Caribbean, Dave McGreggor, said the partnership was “unprecedented” and timely, especially with the high oil prices.
“We need to get off fossil fuel; we need to stop spending our hard-earned foreign exchange on fossil fuel. The money is coming in and it’s going straight out the other door on fossil fuel and that’s why we need to be doing projects like this with pace, and pace has been missing….
“We need to work with the Ministry of Energy, and the Fair Trading Commission to remove any and all barriers to getting this project done and done quickly and done right. And the sooner we can do it, the sooner we will yield the benefits in getting off that oil,” McGreggor stressed.
He noted that if everything went to plan, the plant could be completed in eight months. Minister Symmonds gave the assurance that his Ministry would make sure the necessary things were done so the project could proceed without impediment.