Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, got the opportunity to share Barbados’ renewable energy progress and its climate resilience activities to date, when he participated in a virtual roundtable today.
Mr. Symmonds, along with Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs in Bermuda, Walter Rohan, and Minister for Climate Resilience, the Environment, Forestry, Fisheries and Disaster Management and Information, Simon Stiell, were the participants in the New Energy Fifth Caribbean Infrastructural Forum Ministerial Roundtable on Investment in Island Resilience.
The Energy Minister told the panel that the island had a fleet of over 35 electric buses and would have a total of 45 buses crisscrossing communities in another six months.
While acknowledging this important step in the e-mobility of the transportation sector, Mr. Symmonds stated that more investment is needed to develop other critical complementary structures to effect this.
“These [buses] are state-owned, so it is part of a state-led intervention, but it is setting the right example to the private sector. We have a lot of private sector operators moving in the direction of e-mobility and therefore you see an increase in interest in hybrids and electric vehicles on the island, and that is something I think we are leading the region in.”
He continued: “There has to be a complementary amount of investment being made in terms of e-grid capacity to maintain these electric vehicles…. The complementary studies that have to be done on them because they are in many regards, new technology and we have to be sure that we are not superimposing on consumers things that will not work well for them in the long term because they are financial investments. That type of work is ongoing by the Ministry of Energy, so that we benefit from the research, we benefit from the complementary studies and equally, we are benefiting from an enhanced public awareness.”
When asked about the successes in building the island’s resilience, the Energy Minister informed that the process had already begun by getting a “wide cross section of the community to understand the peculiar challenges confronted by small island developing states”.
He intimated that Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley had “gone to great lengths” to stress this point in various international fora, including at the United Nations.
However, Mr. Symmonds lamented that a major sticking point from development partners was the need to close the gaps.
“We strongly agree that we need to close the gaps, but let us be frank, the challenges of small islands have always been that we have to close gaps. What we have also come to understand is that very often, with the best intentions in the world, developmental partners, whether they be multi-national partners, multi-lateral institutions…or whether they be philanthropic in nature, do not always get it that one size does not fit all.”
He argued: “In the very key area of developmental financing, part of the messaging that we have had to try to get across is that middle-income developing countries like Barbados, being graduated from access to low-interest loans, for us is a very painful, discomforting thing. The reality is that while we have performed well and done all the things that we are told we need to do, very often you are treated worse than the worst boy in class on the basis of your apparent success.”
He added that Barbados, as a middle-income state, was still vulnerable to external shocks. Nonetheless, Minister Symmonds said he was heartened by the “right sounds”.
“I hear the right sounds coming from certain quarters of the world. There are a couple of new administrations, but I hear noises that there is an appreciation of the challenges. These are not new challenges by any stretch of the imagination, I think they are shared equally among small island developing states,” he underlined.