It is not often that people get to realize their dreams but that is not the case with the Disaster Risk and Energy Access Management (DREAM) project. The DREAM project was facilitated under the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, and grant funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the GEF agency the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It started in December 2015, and ended in November 2019, with its main objective becoming a reality.
DREAM’s Project Coordinator, Destine Gay, stated that the project, with a budget of just over three million Barbados dollars, had as its objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-based power generation through the use of renewable energy (RE) resources and to strengthen Barbados’ disaster risk response by promoting decentralized photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation with battery back-up.
To achieve this objective, the project was broken down into three components. Component one comprised creating a renewable energy policy framework to address the barriers and gaps within the current regulations to assist in the development of the RE sector in Barbados. This was done through capacity building, institutional strengthening and strengthening licensing procedures.
Component two consisted of providing clean energy capacity development at the community level through public education and awareness and community level training. The third component involved the provision of solar PV systems with battery back-up at 28 community and sports centres and nine polyclinics, in an effort to improve the disaster risk response at the community level.
The key achievements and results of component one involved the development of a framework for an electronic Enterprise Content Management system for the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. This system reviewed and mapped the ministry’s processes; identifying redundancies and inefficiencies, and recommendations were made on how to improve the way of doing business.
Technical Officer, DREAM Project, Stuart Bannister, noted that the leading recommendation made was for the ministry to move from a paper-based environment to an electronic/digital environment, with the aim of reducing the time required to process renewable energy licences.
Another aspect achieved under component one was the training of 10 persons in Grid Modelling and 19 persons in Geographic Information System mapping, with the view of incorporating these skills into the new licensing regime.
Under component one, the development of a new utility scale generation licence application form and terms and conditions were also achieved. Together, these achievements are expected to support the transformation of the energy sector in Barbados from one that is centred around fossil fuel with one dominant player to an energy sector that is diversified with respect to energy sources and energy suppliers.
Exciting activities and achievements occurred under component two, which included the development of a RE game, NVQ certification and an energy expo. The development of an interactive game which can be adapted to all competency levels was created and is being used to make learning about RE fun and interesting, particularly among school children. It was introduced this year at the UNDP sponsored Energy Expo.
In November 2018 and 2019, the ministry with assistance from the DREAM project, hosted energy expos at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, inclusive of a kids’ zone.
Mr. Stuart said the aim of the expos was “to provide an opportunity for stakeholders within Barbados’ renewable energy sector to engage the public on the myriad of products, solutions, services and education options available.”
The expos showcased renewable energy and energy efficient technology, such as solar photovoltaic panels, solar hot water and solar air conditioning systems, electric vehicles and bikes, hybrid vehicles, water conservation solutions, LED lighting and solar lighting.
One of the most notable achievements under component two was the development of a Level One National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in solar PV installation. This NVQ has no entry prerequisites and will be offered at community and resource centres across the island. The project ended with the graduation of 13 candidates on November 29, this year, at the Haggatt Hall Resource Centre.
During the graduation, acting Executive Director of the Technical and Vocational Educational Training (TVET) Council, Wendy McClean, pointed out that the TVET Council’s role was to develop the new occupational standard for the PV Installation level one course and the accompanying curriculum.
Ms. McClean told the graduates that “skills matter and they place in your hands real power to be craftsmen of your fate…the future of work is evolving and there is a shift taking place in the types of skills that matter”.
She added: “Policy makers in education must invest in young people’s skills. This includes digital skills, skills that give humans a comparative advantage over new technology; the skills of creativity and adaptability; and those related to sustainability and preparedness for the impacts of climate change.”
Walton Trotman, one of the younger persons who completed the course, said it was both “intriguing and challenging…. It focused a lot on safety…it was very interesting and thought-provoking to see the way that we can really get into using renewable energy to carry us into the future as a developing country”.
Meanwhile, David Daniel, the oldest graduate, said: “I took the course to learn how to outfit my own home with a system and with the hopes of being able to teach the course in the future, and I achieved both of those objectives.”
They both said that they were willing to pursue further studies in solar PV installations, and encouraged persons of any age to take the course.
Component three of the project was the most visible component, as the installation of solar PV systems with back-up battery capacity could be seen on the rooftops of 22 community and sports pavilions, as well as nine polyclinics. The total capacity of the solar PV installations at the community centres and sports pavilions are 70 kWp, and the total capacity of the solar PV installations at nine polyclinics is 174 kWp.
DREAM’S Project Coordinator, Destine Gay, highlighted that the solar PV installations with back-up batteries are to assist the resilience of communities around Barbados in the event of a natural disaster, or if the grid is down, by providing ‘clean energy’ at the facilities, which are now referred to as 37 first response locations.
The public would be able to visit any of these 22 first response locations and receive assistance, for example, with the storing of medication that needs to be refrigerated, or charging of cell phones, so they could communicate with family overseas, in the event of a natural disaster.
Overall, the DREAM Project provided information on the benefits and options of renewable energy technologies, such as solar PV systems. It developed procurement documents, site inspection templates and improved the existing contract documents to include the nuances of solar PV installation, inspections and approval processes; as well as the creation of a PV monitoring app that can be used to collect and analyze PV systems data.
UNDP’s Programme Manager, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Resilience, Danielle Evanson, stressed that the DREAM project, in achieving its objective, has assisted Barbados in addressing sustainable energy.
It has also had an impact on many dimensions of poverty, energy security and the Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDG 7- affordable and clean energy; SDGs 8, 9 and 11 – decent economic growth, industry, innovation and sustainable cities and communities; and SDG 13 – climate action.
Ms. Evanson stated that “the DREAM Project, from its conceptualization, has been steadfast in its commitment to strengthen the independence of the local energy sector…as it is expected to become a significant part of a transformed Barbadian economy over the next 10 years and beyond”.