Energy: Our Next Economic Frontier

0
1942

Seashells and Straw.
Seashells and Straw.

By Jerry Roker
for Bahamas Press

Alternative energy is the thing that can transform the Bahamian economy. It can also provide a platform for global leadership in this area. Contrary to the purveyors of doom and gloom in the opposition parties and those erstwhile talk show jokers, The Bahamas brand is a strong brand; we are a coveted brand in the things that we are competitive in.

Our tourism and our international business and financial services sector are the main elements of our economy in recent times and we have done so because of the quality of the services that we provide. And I think that with alternative energy we have a major opportunity to add to that mix with a third element of diversification.

We used to think that the greatest windfall a country could experience was to find oil in commercial quantities and we all, somewhat, envied Trinidad’s status as CARICOM’s only oil exporter. However, technology has now evolved to the point where the entire Caribbean and sunny countries everywhere have much better prospects than oil producers do. We can produce all the power we need from renewable energy sources and, unlike oil, supplies will never run out. In The Bahamas’ case, we can generate all the electricity the country could possibly need from solar and wind energy.

With the necessary solar and wind generation in place The Bahamas can save hundreds of millions of dollars. These savings can be used to eliminate our recurring fiscal deficits, eliminate our need to borrow, and could be used to invest in new hotels, a new hospital or infrastructure, or other things that would create employment-generating opportunities. It would increase investment by over 50 per cent and created hundreds of new jobs. The overall impact on the economy would have been to raise our economic growth from nil, to more than five per cent.

In the Caribbean growth league tables The Bahamas would be number one.

What stands between us and this beckoning future is the investment that must be made in solar photovoltaics, wind generators, storage facilities and power distribution. In addition, all gasoline and diesel powered vehicles would need to be phased out in favour of electric vehicles, with higher performance by the way. This requires Government to commit fully to the 100 per cent renewable energy and provide the incentives and support needed to accelerate the required investment.

All this can done with systems in the global marketplace that are tried and proven. A remarkable opportunity is now ours for the taking. What is needed is firm commitment on the part of our Government.