RENEWABLE ENERGY – Lament Over Lack Of Seriousness

Antigua St. John’s – The head of the umbrella grouping that represents five major businesses in the country is telling Government to get serious about renewable energy.

President of the Antigua & Barbuda Business Alliance Patrick Ryan says that though there has been “a lot of talk”, authorities have not proven their commitment to the issue despite the rising cost of electricity.
The Business Alliance represents the Hotels & Tourist Association, the Airline Association, the Employers Federation, the Tour Operators Association, and the Cruise Tourism Association.

Ryan described the cost of electricity as prohibitive, and questioned the efficiency of the plants that have been supplying the country with power.

“We don’t seem to have anybody in charge to answer questions relating to alternative energy. I want somebody who can answer my questions,” Ryan said.

He said many countries are pursuing wind power, solar power and even ‘blue energy’, which is a method of generating electricity through the convergence of fresh and salt water.

“Electricity is the most prohibitive aspect of any business operating here, and it affects the tourism industry. My fuel bill for my boat tours has doubled in the last five years, and that is a very high expense,” he noted.

Several weeks ago, President of the Employers Federation Acres Stowe complained about the effect that high electricity costs are having on businesses. He said he would be asking Government to bring in experts to discuss the issue and the possibility of pursuing renewable energy options.

Ryan agrees with that recommendation. He said cheap energy will be a factor in allowing the country to be more competitive. “Trinidad has a cheaper energy source so how can we compete with them?” he asked. “If we’re going to bring in some experts, we have got to be serious, and their input must be taken seriously, and not brushed under the table. It cannot be just a talk shop.”

Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said recently that small developing states like Antigua & Barbuda must be innovative and forward-thinking to implement energy-efficiency measures that can reduce costs and enhance the country’s attractiveness as a “green” destination.

An important plank of this, the leader of Government said, is the recently announced electricity interconnection policy for renewable energy that will allow accredited private producers of renewable energy to interconnect to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority’s grid with provision for the net metering of excess power generated by the private producer.

Recently, top decision-makers and owners of 151 firms in Antigua & Barbuda were asked what are the top 15 issues affecting their operations. The cost of electricity was ranked fourth after taxes, customs and trade regulations, and access to finance, according to the results of the World Bank survey.

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In the 2013 Doing Business Report, the state slipped four places to be ranked 63 out of 185 countries. The World Bank said this was still above the regional average for Latin America and the Caribbean