Sustainable energy is one of the highest, if not the highest, national development priorities for Barbados.
This was emphasised by Minister of the Environment and Drainage, Dr. Denis Lowe, as he addressed a lunch time presentation on: Sustainability Energy: Placing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the Centre of the Sustainable Development of SIDS, during the SIDS Inter-Regional Preparatory Meeting at Hilton Barbados yesterday.
???Like most other SIDS [Small Island Developing States], Barbados is highly dependent on imported fossil fuels, which impacts negatively on our national budget,??? the Minister said, pointing out that Government currently spends $850 million a year to purchase fossil fuels.
Dr. Lowe told delegates from the United Nations and SIDS member countries that at the start of its current term in office, Government made a ???bold commitment to promote the renewable energy revolution as a key gear in the engine of national economic growth???.
To this end, the Minister noted that the island???s multi-million dollar waste-to-energy programme, with its ???flagship??? landfill gas-to-energy facility, was a demonstration of Government???s commitment to addressing environmental challenges, reducing threats to public health and the country???s dependence on fossil fuels.
???What Government did in its physical development plan was to identify a parcel of over 100 acres of land to build out a sustainable renewable energy programme,??? he explained, adding the facility would also feature a solar and wind energy farm.
However, Dr. Lowe pointed out that other incentives were also being undertaken by Government to generate interest in renewable energy. Those incentives outlined include a Value Added Tax (VAT) and duty concessions on building materials and supplies for the construction of facilities; zero rate of VAT on all renewable energy and energy efficient systems and products produced in Barbados; a deduction of 150 per cent on expenditure for certain staff training for eligible businesses; a 150 per cent deduction on expenditures for product development/research related activities and exemptions from corporation taxes for 10 years for venture capital funds investing in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
United Nations Under-Secretary General of the United Nations Development Programme Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan, said while the transition to sustainable energy required committed leaders, and adequate technical and financial support, the benefit of switching to renewable energy was also well understood as promoting efficiency and conservation in SIDS.
But, she noted that part of the problem was that renewable energy did not have an even playing field to compete with fossil fuel. Ms. Grynspan, however, suggested that the policy framework and incentives put in place could assist with renewable energy being able to compete on a better footing with fossil fuel.
The Associate Administrator also told delegates that the realities for SIDS were well known, and access was varied, as for many persons energy posed one of the most pressing challenges towards the transition to more sustainable and applicable development solutions.
???One out of every five, [that is] 20 per cent, of the world has no access to modern energy. Twice as many [persons] use wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste to cook their meals and heat their homes [thus] exposing their families to smoke and fumes that damage their health,??? she said.
She added that the three-day high-level meeting was expected to provide an opportunity to examine how best to carry forward the vision of SIDS, with a view that sustainable energy was essential to meeting their sustainable development objectives.