Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Kerrie Symmonds (second from left) in discussion with Energy Specialist at the IDB Veronica Prado, IDB’s Country Representative in Barbados Juan Carlos De la Hoz Viñas while PS In the Ministry of Energy, Francine Blackman, listen attentively. (J. Carrington/BGIS)

Financing the island’s energy sector, and the benefits to be had from Government’s smart energy programme were discussed recently during a courtesy call by officials of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), on Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds.

During talks at the Country Road, St. Michael Ministry, Minister Symmonds said the financial assistance to develop the energy sector is absolutely critical, given what he described as the “beginning of a feeling of dystopia creeping across the islands of the Caribbean”.

He reasoned that Barbados had been confronted with approximately 30,000 new unemployment claims at the National Insurance Department since the onset of COVID-19, and this situation posed a serious challenge for the country.

The Energy Minister noted that the energy sector had tremendous potential, particularly in renewable energy.

“It is through renewables that we would be able to not only reduce the cost of electricity and related utilities, but also, it is through renewables that we are able to generate some much needed employment,” Mr. Symmonds stated.

He informed the IDB officials that the linking of Energy with the Commerce side of the Ministry’s portfolio, presented the opportunity to train unemployed persons to install, maintain and repair renewable energy systems equipment.

Noting that it gives an economic platform by way of trade in services across borders, Mr. Symmonds said some of the skills that would be developed, especially in the context of creating small enterprises, could be exported across borders to assist some of the neighbouring Caribbean islands.

The Energy Minister said he is optimistic that the skills accrued would not only be used to install renewable energy systems on the roofs of over 95,000 households and businesses, but would create synergies within the agricultural sector.

“So, there is much work to be done in terms of training and upskilling our people, and right now, we have a golden opportunity to start to look after ourselves,” Mr. Symmonds pointed out.

IDB’s Energy Specialist, Veronica Prado, said the agency had been able to attract more concessional financing, and mentioned that currently, there is BDS $44 million in investment grants available for the energy sector.

“The impact these loans have had and will have down the road is to stimulate the small and medium enterprises in Barbados….  It is globally known that the renewable energy industry, especially the solar PV industry, is the number one employment globally.  So, there is an opportunity that I see that is very timely and the quicker we make sure that we support the small and medium enterprises across the different sectors, I think we have the ability and capacity to generate employment that is very needed.”

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