The Government is currently rewriting our Energy Policy: We need to make sure we will have an electricity system, supported by an energy policy, which looks to the future - which will be fit for purpose in 30 or 40 years time.  The electricity system of the future values energy efficiency over generating power, it is democratic so that the utility and the community contribute equally, it reinvests in the island, and ultimately, it is sustainable in the sense that we could live this way for decades and leave our great-grandchildren with resources for their lives.

Con Ed Smart GridWhy does our island, with the perfect conditions for solar energy, generate less than 1% of its power from the sun? The answer spans our current Energy Policy, economic incentives, and inertia.

Our integrated electricity system belongs in the past - it hasn't really changed for 30 or 40 years; and in the meantime, technology and the economics of alternative sources of power have changed dramatically. The Government is currently rewriting our Energy Policy: We need to make sure we will have an electricity system, supported by an energy policy, which looks to the future - which will be fit for purpose in 30 or 40 years time. The electricity system of the future values energy efficiency over generating power, it is democratic so that the utility and the community contribute equally, it reinvests in the island, and ultimately, it is sustainable in the sense that we could live this way for decades and leave our great-grandchildren with resources for their lives.

Valuing energy efficiency: the energy we don't use is much cheaper than burning fuel to generate more. Vermont finds that the cost of saving electricity is less than half the price of generating more electricity. Ten US states have set energy efficiency targets of more than 20% by 2020 – and we have seen that same savings available here if people take the initiative themselves. But without a national goal, supported by things like efficiency standards for office buildings, individual initiatives will never add up to significant savings.

Energy policy also has a part to play through how we charge for electricity. Our current tariff structure means that Belco has a strong incentive to burn more fossil fuel and sell more electricity. There are alternative ways to design a tariff structure which provides BELCO (or any other power provider) with the revenue they require, but aligns both the utility and the consumers' incentives to save power.

A democratic grid: The energy system of the future is democratic – we can and should participate. We should be demanding a smart grid and smart meters instead of a major new gas plant. A smart grid would mean we can managing our energy demand, instead of keep turbines running in reserve and burning unnecessary fuel. Solar power and wind energy are intermittent – if a cloud passes over the sun or the wind dies, then the power dies. With a smart grid we can adjust our electricity usage minute by minute to allow for these small fluctuations – the clothes dryer can pause or the hot water heater can go off for a few minutes until the sun comes out again. Let's ask for a democratic grid

Energy policy has a part to play here by treating all sources of energy democratically: whether it comes from saving electricity somewhere else in the grid, or from residential and commercial solar, or from waste-to-energy, or from wind, or from burning fuel oil in a central plant. This requires transparency – separating out the management of electricity transmission and distribution from the source of power - so that we can know where the electricity comes from and how much it costs.

Reinvest in the island: A hidden cost of our current electricity system is the impact of buying oil from overseas. More than half of each of our bill payments is being sent off the island to pay for oil. If we invested in local energy, for example, wind turbines, solar panels, or a smart grid to manage demand, then even if it costs the same (or more) than oil-fuelled electricity generation, most of the money stays on the island. It pays for jobs to install the equipment and those workers pay health insurance and buy groceries. The average 'multiplier' in the community from investing in alternative energy is that twice that value comes back to the community in different ways.

Energy policy has a part to play by considering these extra benefits. California, for example, requires a strict loading order for power: efficiency first, renewables second, fossil fuel third, because of the extra multiplier value in the community from energy efficiency and renewable energy.

It is sustainable: Fossil fuel based electricity is bad for the environment: The Economist magazine in 1991 claimed that "using energy in today's ways leads to more environmental damage than any other peaceful human activity." Burning fossil fuel not only contributes to climate change, but it has a direct impact on our island environment. For example, pollution from the smoke stacks has an impact on the surrounding homes. Major new construction for a natural gas plant would cause visual pollution, which could have an impact from tourism. Any new construction, for example a large scale commercial solar farm, will have an impact on the local biodiversity. (This makes excess power obtained through energy efficiency even more valuable.)

Energy policy has a part to play in sustainability by making a commitment as a community to living differently. The island of Aruba has made a commitment to 100% sustainable power by 2030, and is half way there today, with cheaper power than when they started. More sustainable power is economically feasible and technically possible, but we won't get there without a commitment by our community and our Government.

We should aspire to so much more. Our energy future is bright - but it looks quite different from today. The system of the future draws power from many different sources and all members of the community have a part to play. But we can only get there with an Energy Policy which supports this future. Have your say - Cabinet will decide on the new Energy Policy in April - make sure they know what you want. You can find Greenrock's response to the Energy Policy proposal here.

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more


Where to find Us

Suite 324, 48 Par-La-Ville Rd,
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

Telephone: 1-441-747-ROCK (7625)
Email: info@greenrock.org
Website: www.greenrock.org