A renewable Energy Co-op would be “an excellent mechanism to both empower and enfranchise Barbadians as economic stakeholders in the renewable energy sector”.
This was suggested by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Patrick McCaskie, last Friday as he addressed a stakeholder’s meeting of Cooperatives Societies Movement at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, on behalf of Minister Dwight Sutherland.
The forum, which was convened by the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, sought to elicit views on the role of cooperatives and credit unions in the emerging renewable energy sector, as it engaged over 60 representatives.
Mr. McCaskie noted that the proposed co-op model would allow Barbadians to have a 30 per cent stake in all foreign-owned renewable energy, energy storage and energy-efficient projects in Barbados, as well as being able to venture into projects on its own.
While acknowledging that the mission of the Energy and Water Resources Ministry, in collaboration with the Cooperatives Department, was to clearly demonstrate that the cooperative way of managing energy was viable, he noted other countries were utilizing the cooperative business model to assist in the generation of energy.
He said in Argentina, energy cooperatives provide 10 per cent of the national energy production, and serve 17 per cent of customers at the national level, and 58 per cent of rural customers.
And, the Permanent Secretary added: “In Brazil, there are an estimated 126 rural energy cooperatives with a total of over one million members, providing energy to over three million customers. The research also indicates that energy cooperatives in the USA serve 12 per cent of the US population and own over 40 per cent of the energy distribution network.
“Barbados is, therefore, following a global trend that continues to evolve, which empowers citizens of their countries to have clean energy, as well as to have a stake in the enterprises that generate that energy.”
Mr. McCaskie further pointed out that the Cooperatives Unit of the International Labour Office (ILO) view cooperatives for renewable energy as examples of proactive citizen initiatives aiming for implementation of alternative energy supply models.
And, he noted that the ILO recognized that these initiatives not only result in higher shares of renewable energy, but that they simultaneously represent alternative business models, with the individual citizen as main stakeholder and beneficiary.
He also stated that an energy cooperative was a way of “investing” socially and economically in sustainable development.
“By casting their ‘consumer vote’ in support of this potential renewable energy cooperative, Barbadians will aim to reduce their environmental impact (by relying on greener sources of energy), strengthen the domestic market for cleaner energy, and encourage the continuation of a greener economy.
“It is possible that this renewable energy cooperative could lead to the creation of employment, including green jobs, at the local level. Providing affordable and clean energy can lead to the establishment of micro and small enterprises, which will both promote the local economy and increase the overall electricity demand, thereby contributing to improved performance of the energy provider,” the Permanent Secretary said.