Member of Parliament for St George South Dwight Sutherland has given the Ministry of Energy a failing grade for its oversight of the renewable energy sector.
At the same time, he has called for a clear proposal to be presented by the Freundel Stuart administration on the proposed amalgamation of the National Petroleum Corporation (NPC) and the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL).
“I want to know the sustainable plan because we are talking about energy and I am not going to just speak about natural gas because we have some fundamental issues in the Ministry of Energy,” Sutherland said in making his contribution to the debate on the amendment of the National Petroleum Corporation Bill in the House of Assembly Friday morning.
The Opposition St George South representative explained that while technocrats in that ministry were highly trained, there were some “governance issues in the Ministry of Energy in this country that we need to address”.
He said one of the questions that Government needed to answer was, what would be the future of the NPC and the BNOCL as the country reduced its dependency on fossil fuels.
He also said it was a shame that despite having the capacity and capability to build the renewable energy industry “we are sitting down on it for the past nine years”.
“I heard about this potential merger between National Petroleum Corporation and BNOC, but what is the plan to transition to a more renewable energy company, BNOC and the National Petroleum Corporation?” the Opposition legislator asked.
“In my view the BNOC sells natural gas to the NPC and I am not coming in this House to say the NPC has not done a good job, I am here to ask the honourable member who presented on behalf of the Ministry of Energy, ‘is that ministry that is doing minimum as it relates to renewable energy?’
“The BNOC has missed the boat,” Sutherland argued, while insisting that the island’s energy parent company needed to be rebranded as a renewable energy company to lead the growth of the sector, instead of allowing the privately owned Barbados Light & Power Company to do so.
Sutherland further suggested that the state entity should own at least a ten-megawatt solar farm in which local investors could have a stake.
In leading off the debate Friday, Stuart, under whose office the Ministry of Energy falls, said Government was not about to sound the death knell on the drilling for oil offshore Barbados, even as the country focuses on expanding the renewable energy sector.
“The commitment of the Government to the creation of a green economy in Barbados has ensured that the Government sets certain targets to effect certain changes in energy mix in Barbados, so that our dependence on fossil fuels would not be as lopsided as that dependence has been for the better part of our history,” said Stuart.
“Of course there are positive signs in our offshore acreage. That is why we have to be very careful how we address issues like this [natural gas] because we are not pronouncing against the use of fossil fuels, since we expect to be able to produce from our offshore acreage,” he added, while indicating that any profits from oil drilling would go towards diversifying the local energy mix and expansion of the renewable energy sector.
Currently, Barbados requires about 11,000 barrels of oil per day to satisfy demands, but it is only producing a mere 700 barrels of crude oil per day, Stuart said.
The proposed changes to the NPC legislation will therefore allow for, among other things, an increase in the rates charged for natural gas.