Minister Marc Bean On Renewable Energy

September 19, 2012

Speaking at the CARILEC’s 2012 Annual Renewable Energy Forum, Minister of Environment, Planning and Infrastructure Marc Bean said he is “extremely bullish on natural gas” and has high expectations for its use in electrical generation

CARILEC is the association of Caribbean electric utility companies, and participants from over 30 Caribbean countries are attending the conference which is being held at the at Fairmont Southampton from September 17-19.

“We are currently on the cusp of great progress that will change our energy landscape, forever and for the better,” said Minister Bean.

“It is for these reasons that my Government is taking a two-pronged approach towards our energy security. As previously mentioned, we are aggressively facilitating our private sector to invest and deploy renewable energy technologies inclusive of wind, solar, and tidal methods.

“In addition, we are working closely with our local utility BELCO, to assist them in introducing natural gas as the short to mid-term solution for our energy requirements. I am extremely bullish on natural gas, and have high expectations for its use in electrical generation. Combined with the complimentary energy generation via wind, solar, and tidal, I am convinced that our strategy for Bermuda will not only ensure energy security, but also, social and economic stability.

Minister Bean’s full statement follows below:

Good evening,

Today it is my great pleasure to welcome you all, on behalf of the Government of Bermuda, to CARILEC’s 2012 Annual Renewable Energy Forum.

Participants from over 30 Caribbean countries are here today, which stands as a true testament to the partnership we enjoy as a region as we work together to chart a course to energy security and best practice.

This forum is a landmark event for us here in Bermuda and the timing couldn’t be better…

We are currently on the cusp of great progress that will change our energy landscape, forever and for the better.

It is a change that began in 2008, with the creation of the Department of Energy. Upon its inception work began immediately to develop a Green Paper on energy in order to initiate a national consultation on our future energy policy. The paper was subsequently released in February of 2009.

The process that followed led to the formation our 2011 Energy White Paper, subtitled ‘A National Transition’. This document outlines a nine-year action plan on how to lower our emissions by 2020 and create an alternate future that complements and, or, supplements fossil fuels, where we use energy more efficiently and harness indigenous renewable energy resources.

I would like to highlight two issues that I feel are essential to the discussions to be held here this week.

Firstly, a recognition that there does not exist one approach to an energy strategy that can be applied across all small island states; and

Secondly, Economic Calculation is essential if Renewable or Alternative Energy is to replace our traditional energy sources at the scale that encourages consumer buy-in.

We in Bermuda are blessed to have young academics who have dedicated their time to consider the question of renewable energy within small-island states. Their research can inform our strategy.

Bermudian Doctoral Candidate at Royal Holloway University, Mr. David Chapman, has found that, and I quote:

“Through examining the role of renewable energy in Bermuda in efforts being made towards sustainable development, consideration of context and place are extremely critical in avoiding misaligned policy and technological integration of alternative energy technologies. While my research confirms the vulnerability of Bermuda as a Small Island State in regards to energy issues such as fuel diversity and import dependence, the unique ‘urban and developed’ profile of the island creates both barriers and opportunities for renewable energy that may not be present in less developed Small Island States. For example, in Bermuda, issues of small islandness, which affect not only the incumbent utilitiy’s ability to expand as well as placing constraints on the availability and suitability of locations for large, centralized renewable energy installations, also become further exacerbated by the urban land form present on the island. Additionally, island-specific considerations such as Bermuda’s white-washed roof tradition and its use of roof-top water collection systems are factors unique to the island and thus the appropriateness of renewable energy technologies used in other island locales may be called into question due to both technical and aesthetic challenges.

Hence, the application of ‘one size fits all’ models of sustainable development that seek to promote generalized adoption of renewable energy technologies across the diverse range of Small Island States is shown to be unrealistic and potentially harmful, and assessments into the appropriate application of such technologies must involve approaches representative of the three core facets of holistic sustainable development – economic, environmental and social.”

In other words, a cookie-cutter approach to renewable energy for small-island states cannot and will not work. While we may share best practices amongst ourselves, in recognition of what we share in common, ultimately, decisions on what technologies should be deployed in our respective jurisdictions will have to be made by each individual country, after careful consideration of numerous factors that are country-type specific.

In regards to the issue of Economic Calculation, it is my considered position that while it would be ideal for the world to embark on a full-scale conversion to renewable energy technologies, the economic reality is that today, the cost of production of renewable energy is substantially higher than our traditional methods. Until the day arrives when the consumer sees the direct benefits of renewable energy through either lower acquisition cost or lower monthly electricity bills, then the dream of wide-scale consumer buy-in will remain a theory, or even worse, an illusion.

For this dream to become a reality, it is my position that Government’s role is to facilitate the private sector to becoming the lead agent of this change. We must look to the private sector, who use economic calculation as the basis of their decision making, to innovate, develop, and produce technologies that stimulate demand in the market. Examples abound of State-led renewable energy initiatives that, ultimately, have led to increasing production cost, misallocation of scarce resources, and even the bankruptcy of some firms. It has been, in my opinion, a road to hell with good intentions.

But the fact of the matter is that when it applies to energy security, good intentions are not good enough.

Energy is the foundation of modern progress and the raising of global standards of living. To live without efficient and effective energy delivery is asking our respective populations to go backwards by 200 years! This is unacceptable in every possible way.

It is for these reasons that my Government is taking a two-pronged approach towards our energy security. As previously mentioned, we are aggressively facilitating our private sector to invest and deploy renewable energy technologies inclusive of wind, solar, and tidal methods. In addition, we are working closely with our local utility BELCO, to assist them in introducing natural gas as the short to mid-term solution for our energy requirements. I am extremely bullish on natural gas, and have high expectations for its use in electrical generation. Combined with the complimentary energy generation via wind, solar, and tidal, I am convinced that our strategy for Bermuda will not only ensure energy security, but also, social and economic stability.

This forum therefore could not come at a better time. Instead of thumping our chests in pride with what we have achieved, which truly is only small steps at the moment, we must be focusing our efforts on doing more….On making data-driven decisions and intelligent, far-reaching investments into our energy future.

So without further delay, please sit back and enjoy not just a stunning visual treat, but also a compelling reason for us to be spending these next few days together.

Thank You.

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Comments (4)

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  1. 32n64w says:

    It would seem the new head of BELCO has the ear of Minister Bean concerning LNG.

    Do we have any preliminary indications regarding the cost to construct a LNG terminal? Where would it be placed? Can existing infrastructure be used or will this energy ‘holy grail’ require additional CAPEX? If so, who’s going to pay for it? BELCO, the taxpayers or both?

    What are the physical storage requirements for LNG inventory and are they compatible with our hurricane prone environment?

    Where will Bermuda source LNG and at what price? Have the economics of converting to and remaining with LNG been properly considered and independently analysed?

    Have these basic questions even been considered before making such sweeping remarks about our energy future or is this just another pre-election shotgun speech (a la our phantom hotels)?

  2. Family Man says:

    LNG? The man is totally clueless.

    It should be a requirement that ALL of our parliamentarians be drug tested.

  3. Tired of the Rhetoric says:

    …Okay, well the top dogs at BELCO and Government very obviously have to do more research, do some serious pricing and comparison of other places OUR SIZE and FOR ONCE sit down at the same table and talk this over! and SOON!!! There are many great ideas (and I say, IDEAS!!!) but you have to first and foremost take into consideration the very tiny size, location and population of Bermuda. If we go with the recent ALL-SOLAR option near the airport, where will they raise $200 to $300 MILLION DOLLARS to fund this?? If you divide that cost amongst the very small total number of households, you will see that it is an EXTRAORDINARY and unreasonable investment/per person for this small island! In addition, Solar power is still not proven and has many flaws. It takes years to recover your investment in solar power, YEARS! $200-300 million dollars is an unfathomable amount of money to invest into a relatively new, fickle technology on a small island like ours. There is only personal gain in the middle here for the solar power installation companies. In this case, greed is NOT GOOD for us, the consumers!

    Now, new “Energy expert” Marc Bean is all excited about Natural Gas! Yes, Natural Gas is very, very inexpensive right now and plentiful in the U.S. and other places– personally many believe NATURAL GAS is a much better and less expensive option… The U.S. is moving like gangbusters to Natural Gas due to its low cost and availability…However, keep in mind, the U.S.A. has MILLIONS of full time resident and customers… not thousands, to offset their infrastructure costs, etc. BELCO would have to invest many, many millions in a brand new Natural Gas technology and infrastructure, but for only ‘thousands’ of customers living in Bermuda! NO, not apples to apples– apples to pineapples! We cannot ever directly or evenly compare out beautiful but small little island to these grand scale countries because the COST per person is hugely different!!!!

    Again, if we go with (the smarter, more reliable, cheaper and SAFER option) of Natural Gas….who’s willing to fund the huge transformation that BELCO will have to undergo to utilize this new energy source.. and how long before it pays off to the customers?? How much more will the customers have to pay (more ‘adjustments/higher rates) before BELCO returns to profit????

    Again, I say, as usual, lots of great IDEAS, seems like EVERYONE IS FULL OF THEM RIGHT NOW. But where’s the think tank, the research, the “power team” at the boardroom table coming up with viable, solid SOLUTIONS for the long term that FITS BERMUDA’s model as a very small country, with specific limitations and environmental factors? Where is the strategy and research and support that whatever they end up doing to solve our ‘energy crisis’ is not going to fail due to lack of support and or funding and MOST IMPORTANTLY– The CUSTOMERS are not going to be gouged for years to pay off their debt for whatever they end up doing???? Like it or not, we are completely controlled by a large MONOPOLY. Would someone please turn on some light bulbs, juice up their brains and get to the task??? Getting tired of all of this rhetoric.. are we not hearing enough with the impending elections?

  4. George says:

    Well said 32n64w and Tired of the Rhetoric! Still lots of questions to be asked and answered about the best technology(ies)and best way forward to ensure a sustainable energy future for Bermuda!