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It should be the most natural thing in the world for a small island state like Barbados enveloped by wind, water and sun to contemplate moving to a state of consuming 100% renewable energies. In the Pacific, Tokelau reached 100 percent renewable energy back in 2012 and the neighbouring Tuvalu and the Cook Islands are due to become fully powered by renewables before 2020. Tokelau has a population of only 1,500 however it still has the distinction of being the first country in the world to receive 100% of its electricity from the sun.
It is understood that in the Caribbean, Aruba is also set for 100 percent renewable energy in the next few years and Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Montserrat aim to do so by 2030.
However the outlook is not so positive when one examines the current government policy as reflected on their website. The Ministry responsible for energy in Barbados states that “Solar water heating is the only application of renewable energy widely used in Barbados. Approximately 30,000 households in the island have solar water heaters. The major problem with increasing renewable energy use is the fact that using this type of energy is generally significantly more expensive than using conventional energy sources. For example, photo-voltaics is very expensive to introduce to individual homes. In the last five years no significant strides have been made in the area of wind energy despite efforts so to do”. (http://www.energy.gov.bb/web/renewable-energy-in-barbados).
There is an argument that high penetrations of renewable energy are not practical for larger grids and would jeopardize the reliability of the electric system. There are however other schools of thought that an increasingly diverse array of sources makes the system more reliable. There is a relatively high up- front cost however these devices pay for themselves quite quickly given the high cost of fossil fuels. By switching to renewable energy, island nations reduce their reliance on imported fuels, keep money in the local economy, provide their residents with reliable power, and lower their carbon emissions. Estimates of cost savings for net import reduction exceed $300 million.
The half hearted approach reflected in current government policies to renewable energies will change with a Progressive Government. Renewable Energy (RE) is at the core of the UPP's plans for making Barbados energy independent with the chief of these sources being solar. Barbados is a country that was built on sugar which was initially driven by wind power. Depending on our limited natural resources is nothing new to us! Even though the Barbados Light and Power was nationally owned, we still depended on foreign oil to fuel its generators which created the electricity we needed to power Barbados. This resulted in the loss of valuable foreign exchange. With the sale of the BL&P to a foreign company, profits from the pockets of Barbadians are also lost in foreign exchange.
The Progressive Party encourages companies to do business in Barbados, however, we will not ignore the significant advantage which lies in giving Barbadian companies the first option to benefit from our natural resources which are aimed at making us energy independent. We are assured that a rise in local energy production will have a knock-on effect if it is paired with the importation and or manufacture for example of electric powered vehicles (EVs). These EVs will, in turn, replace vehicles in all areas of government outside the emergency sectors in the first instance until vehicle logistics are more favourable. There is no reason why Barbadians cannot be at the front of the development of EV technology for Small Island Developing States. Further to this, as an incentive, we propose ZERO taxation, excise and road tax, on EV vehicles which are supported by a solar power system and low road tax on vehicles which are not.
A rise in EVs will also net a foreign exchange saving due to the lowered maintenance spend on many of the parts that would have been needed in regular combustion engines. This RE policy will not only save valuable foreign exchange in the long term but will lead to further job creation in this sector through manufacturing, home/commercial installations and maintenance as well as a wide range of other services surrounding RE. It also has the potential to generate foreign exchange through exports of solar technology. The Progressive Party is ready as a government to take decisive action on RE.
The vision of the UPP is for Barbados to be 100% renewable by 2030. The United Progressive Party will engage in the following:
1. Develop a road map in order to meet 100% renewable by 2030.
2. Establish a task force made up of government, business and civil society, including the Barbados Renewable Energy Association to oversee the creation of the road map and its implementation.
3. Engage the broader public in the discussions concerning renewable energy and the advantages of going 100% renewable.
4. Determine and articulate specific cost benefits to consumers.
5. Seek funding and support at the regional, hemispheric and international level.
6. Carry out an assessment of the current energy status in Barbados.
7. Carry out a cost assessment of the various components under consideration for implementation.
8. Facilitate the greater diffusion of electrical vehicles.
9. Examine institutional capacity and its development.
10. Examine the skills and therefore the training and education required.
11. Development of policy papers and legislation.
The United Progressive Party recognises that the governance framework for the use of cannabis can be a controversial one. The subject of cannabis access and use is important, sensitive and complex, with issues and implications spanning business, health and social and criminal justice policy. There has been a renewed interest in cannabis for medicinal purposes and there are unsubstantiated claims that medical cannabis is being used by individuals in Barbados where they require relief from chronic pain. Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, is reported as having said while addressing the opening of the International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care workshop back in 2016 that the Ministry of Health was gathering evidence with regard to cannabis used in well-defined clinical situations. He further pointed out that Section 12 (3) (a) of the Drug Abuse (Prevention and Control) Act Cap 131 states that “it is not unlawful … for a practitioner, acting in his capacity as such, to prescribe, administer, manufacture, compound or supply a controlled drug…” For as long as Barbados has been independent, cannabis has been a controlled substance. This strict “control” has created a culture which has dampened the country’s willingness to engage in research with respect to its uses in the medical field. Despite the ability of the medical profession to prescribe the drug it would seem as though there is a stigma attached to it. One major faith-based group in Barbados believes in the healing properties of this herb but has been unable to legally access these “perceived benefits” freely and without consequence. There is also the point of justice and equality within the society. It seems as though those who are arrested and charged most often with being in possession of small quantities of cannabis are underprivileged young men. The other group seems to be the random tourist. It is however a well known fact from surveys conducted, that Barbadians across socio-economic groups do engage in cannabis use. The young men from the more depressed socio-economic groups are then left with a criminal record while their counterparts elsewhere do not suffer such consequences. There can be no justice within a society where not every individual is being treated equally. The Caribbean Community has commissioned a study within the region and on October 27, 2017 a consultation was held with the Barbadian public. Within the meeting there was overwhelming support for access to cannabis by those who would wish to use it for medicinal, recreational and spiritual purposes.
The UPP proposes the following:
1. Immediately legalise the possession and consumption of cannabis for personal use which would allow Barbadians over 18 years of age to access it for recreational and medical purposes. In these circumstances individuals would be allowed to grow a limited number of cannabis plants.
2. In the interim while the legislation is being drafted allow a moratorium on the arrest and charge of individuals who may possess small quantities of cannabis.
3. Establish a task force including government and representative organisations concerning health, public safety, justice, the youth and business with a mandate to review and reform the governance framework with respect to cannabis in Barbados and to report back within a time frame of one year. The task force would advise on the following:
4. Engage in the ongoing collection of statistics in order to ensure that the impact of any proposed new framework can be monitored.