By Fay Simmons
Tribune Business Reporter
A web shop principal yesterday argued that The Bahamas must do more to capitalise on its renewable energy sources as companies brace for up to 163 percent increases in Bahamas Power & Light's (BPL) fuel charge this summer.
Craig Flowers, the FML Group of Companies chief, said: “I don’t think that BPL can do anything to provide a significant change in the cost of electricity in The Bahamas unless we can go to some alternative means of energy.
"There is a major discussion that needs to be had for us in the Caribbean, particularly with the amount of sunshine that we have outside the amount of trade winds that we have in the country, that is necessary for us to to go out and seek an alternative means of energy to become the primary source.
“Right now, we are less stuck and we are relying on fossil fuels," he added. "And I don't know if that has any sustainable long-term benefits to the country. The Government needs to have a conversation with all the parties to be, and certainly educate the public. We can do more, I say, as a country if we can get the citizens to buy into and to get on board.
"But that's an educational process that has to be done. I don't think that is that difficult because of the rate at which technology is forcing all of us to become more cognisant of our surroundings and what's happening in neighbouring countries. And I think it's an easy sell, and even more so to the younger population who are going to have the greatest input or concern for this matter.”
Mr Flowers asserted that, given the cost of energy infrastructure, businesses that may benefit the most from renewable sources cannot afford to have it installed. Thus it is critical for government to lead the charge.
He said: “A consequence [of the high electricity rates] to most of the bigger companies that deal with hundreds of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis for electricity, that cost is astronomical and we have to find alternative means. Individual companies can look at, and probably visualise or have on a wish list that these things take place, but they're not going to really be effective or sustainable for any long-term period unless government is involved. It’s about educating the public.”
"My company alone, or several of us, will benefit ourselves, but the population that needs this lower range of energy to be provided is not in a position to afford to pay for the infrastructure. The savings is over a long period of time. It's a large investment to be considered at any one time, and only governments can really plan a structure whereby the payment for it is done."
Mr Flowers said the Government’s approach to obtaining the funds necessary to switch to renewable energy sources must be strategic and transparent to ensure the public buys in.
He added: “I think that the Government really needs at this time to look seriously at the way it does business when it comes to initially initialising these new types of ideas in the country. I mean by that if there was going to be an investment in borrowing funds for renewable energy, and that is, just hypothetically $1bn, then go out and borrow the $1bn but show the public when this $1bn is paid off there are no more payments.
“Government likes to implement taxes. That doesn't have any closing date and people are annoyed by it. Those types of approaches, you have to be more strategic, you have to be more transparent, and it has to sell to the public that this tax is for the purpose of providing you the infrastructure to give you a lower cost of energy. If that message can be sold by the Government, a lot of these things that we speak of for improving the fundamental things in our country can be had.”