Bermuda is currently rudderless when it comes to energy policy. In 2011 the Energy White Paper set a goal of 30% renewable energy by 2020 and a reduction in Bermuda's CO2 emissions below 10 metric tonnes equivalent by 2020. Our current Government has not reiterated their support for the these goals, subsidies for residential solar power have been withdrawn, and the cap of 200 solar roofs, set in 2009, has not been revised. Renewable technology has been advancing rapidly in the last 5 years and becoming more efficient and cost effective. At the same time the threat posed by global climate change has become more obvious and immediate. Bermuda needs a clear and rational energy policy to stop the hemorrhage of currency overseas to pay for our energy, and the hemorrhage of carbon into the air which is putting our future at risk.

Now is the right time to be charting a new course for energy policy in Bermuda. Belco urgently needs to reinvest in energy generation so this gives us in the short-term something close to a 'clean sheet' approach for planning future electricity generation. The cost of renewable technology, particularly solar, has come down faster than expected, providing us with a timely opportunity for investment in alternative energy infrastructure, at a lower price than was possible a few years ago.

As Greenrock has pointed out in the past: replacing our existing diesel fuel oil generation with liquefied natural gas is not a good solution. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, and while it produces about 20% less carbon dioxide than fuel oil as it burns, it still contributes to global climate change. In addition we would continue to be vulnerable to political uncertainty and global fossil fuel market insecurities. At the moment roughly 50% of the cost of our electricity is for fuel. This means that 50c of every dollar spent on electricity is sent off the island. This affects our balance of trade and makes us vulnerable to foreign economic shocks.

In the long term we must significantly reduce our reliance on imported fuel. Renewable energy is not only an environmentally friendly option, but also allows us to retain control of our electricity generation, and to retain the investment on the island. The experience in other jurisdictions (such as Hawaii) suggest that we could replace 15-20% of our daily electricity with solar electricity. Building efficiencies could reduce our electricity demand by 10-20%, and peak (or better: real-time) energy pricing, facilitated by 'smart meters', could significantly reduce the load at times of day not served by solar. Putting all of these things in place would mean a much smaller central electricity plant.

In the absence of Government leadership Bermuda's energy policy has de facto been set by our utility, and therefore Greenrock welcomes their volte face, and new embrace of solar technology. The vision that Walt Higgins, Belco's CEO, described is one that Greenrock can support, and natural gas makes sense as part of a plan which cuts our carbon emissions by at least 30%, significantly reduces our reliance on fossil fuel, and put us on a trajectory to meet or exceed global climate goals.

Greenrock applauds Belco for taking the initiative in changing the direction of our energy future, and encourages the Government to show leadership in changing our energy legislation to support this vision. Bermuda's current energy legislation and electricity rate-setting mechanisms are stuck in the 20th Century and must be extensively rewritten to move us towards a rational and responsible approach to energy.

We hope that this is the start of a broad and deep public conversation on our energy future. This matters to every one of us, and not just because it affects the dollar figure on our electricity bill. Thousands of 'solar roofs' mean we will have to decide what we want Bermuda to look like - Is Black the new White for Bermuda architecture? In the past we have been willing to put up with other unsightly things for the sake of change and convenience: Belco chimneys and transmission lines, and large stripped and painted areas of rock as water catchments come to mind; a move to self-reliance is worth evolving our view of Bermuda roofs. Mr Higgins also highlighted the opportunities for job creation in Bermuda: building renewable power facilities, and changing the way our buildings and homes function will open up employment opportunities. Keeping investment here on the island instead of paying for foreign oil and gas will help to fund those opportunities.

Greenrock looks forward with cautious optimism to an energy sector that we can still be proud of in the second half of the 21st Century.

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Dr Judith Landsberg has been involved with energy issues on the island for a number of years as the former President and a current Director of Greenrock

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

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Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

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