Column: Security Of Our Energy Supply Part II

June 10, 2018 | 11 Comments

[Opinion column written by Nick Hutchings]

Further to news coverage of Stratton Hatfield’s recent speech to Hamilton Rotarians about the benefits of energy from the sun and relative to the Regulatory Authority’s public consultation on BELCO’s proposed integrated resource plan [IRP], Part II

I finished Part I of this essay by saying hats off to Mr. Hatfield and his colleagues in the solar business for pointing us in the right direction and I meant it sincerely. However, with all due respect to my friends in the solar business, the fact remains that a large percentage of the population cannot afford it.

In fact, by taking a bite out of BELCO’s load forecast given that they still operate under what is fast becoming an outdated rate-based tariff regime, solar has the potential of driving the price up for low income families caught in a shrinking customer base if it continues to be sold at current prices.

I have every confidence that Mr. Hatfield and his colleagues are thinking hard about how to increase efficiencies, reduce their margins and stay profitable at the same time, but they face a catch 22 scenario. If they increase sales, they can leverage efficiencies of scale to reduce the price, but they can only leverage efficiencies of scale to reduce the price if they increase sales.

It would help if they could import solar panels directly from the Factory. The vast majority of panels are manufactured in China. In order to satisfy my curiosity about cost, I requested a quote from Canadian Solar for a tier 1, grade A, 285-watt, 60 cell size panel shipped directly from their factory. The quote they gave me was 38 cents per watt CIF [cargo, insurance, freight] Bermuda.

Anyone who has priced a solar system locally will immediately recognize the potential for cost savings that comes from buying in bulk. The inter-America Development Bank is doing exactly that in Barbados where they are installing rooftop solar for the “high-volume price” of $1.50 per watt compared to $4.00 per watt which is the current “low-volume price” in Bermuda.

However, you only get the high-volume price if you buy 40’ container loads at a time. Normally, this is not a problem in most ports but, the Infrastructure Committee of the Corporation of Hamilton, believing that it is in the best interests of Bermuda, restricts the landing of 40’ containers on the Hamilton Docks except in special circumstances like the America’s Cup.

It remains to be seen if members of the Infrastructure Committee believe that mitigating what is arguably the single biggest threat to life, security and prosperity on Earth and, certainly one of the single biggest threats to our economy, qualifies as special circumstances.

Given what is at stake, it might be useful to re-visit what was said in paragraph 4, Part I of this essay: “The UNFCCC Paris Agreement [ratified by 175 states including the UK and European Union] requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.”

Perhaps someone should ask our decision makers, i.e. Ministers and senior Civil Servants, members of the Regulatory Authority and the Corporation of Hamilton if they believe 97% of climate scientists are correct in their assertion that climate change is, to a very large degree, a result of burning fossil fuel.

If so, will they stand with the vast majority of the international Governmental and Regulatory community, regardless of whether Bermuda has a treaty obligation to do so under the Paris Agreement or not, and make a public commitment to put forward their best efforts in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change?

I make that pledge now, albeit that my only remit to do so is as a private citizen, and I invite everyone else who is no longer a willing participant in what has been so brilliantly described as “the dumbest experiment in history” to pledge as well.

Simply cut and paste: “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change” in the comment space below or on social media, if you prefer, make it in your own words.

Be the change you want to see, stop the change you don’t!

- Nick Hutchings is semi-retired from his marine contracting business and has taken a keen interest in promoting renewable energy. He is an advocate for the Rocky Mountain Institute community scale solar “Shine” program which leverages, system standardisation, economies of scale and innovative business models to make solar energy more affordable and therefore more widely available.

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Comments (11)

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  1. Loquat Tree says:

    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”

  2. BelmontBlue says:

    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.”
    I will pressure the Government of Bermuda to enact legislation banning the import of Internal Combustion Engine powered road vehicles with effect from 1 January 2026 and hybrids from 1 January 2031 and to devise and implement with stakeholders a clear strategy to deliver the infrastructure necessary to make this happen.
    I will further continue to challenge vigorously BELCO’s IRP and the demagogic, self-serving behaviour of the Ascendant Group board of directors.

  3. Judith Wadson says:

    Bermuda needs to be a solution to the world problem of climate change.
    PLEASE Government listen to the proven exacerbating contributors that have already decimated our planet’s oceans and landfills:
    Legislation is needed to support the reversal of climate change:
    Ban plastic/styrofoam packaging organic and conventional vegetables, snacks, meats and cheeses done in and by Bermuda’s grocery stores and restaurants for take-away containers. There are solutions: environmentally- and endocrinological-safe packaging are being used elsewhere and could be imported to Bermuda as easily as the offending plastics.
    Bermuda’s beaches are famous for their pink sand, but now the serious breakdown of plastic from the world’s oceans that have landed on our shores have made the sand green, blue, yellow and white, too. Ask Dr. Robbie Smith about it!
    Look to the island in Denmark — Samso — an area about 40 square miles long with a permanent population of about 4,000 — all of them living a green dream. It can be done. It is being done.
    Talk to Sea Legacy. Get the input and do something now not next year.
    PLEASE for the sake of every living organism.

  4. Deborah Lombardo says:

    I commit doing all I can to protect our earth by using alternative energy, reducing plastic usage and upholding the assertions of the scientific community that fossil fuel use has contributed greatly to climate change.

    We here are in a unique position to be a poster child for alternative energy independence. Look at our water system! We can make a difference by embracing the need for sustainable methods of creating energy and independence from fossil fuels. Our leaders need to make this a priority. Make it mandatory for All new commercial buildings (including Belco’s new plant; Yes! You who give lip service to supporting alternative energy, but have no intention of installing it) to install solar panels to offset energy use.

    Cost of solar panels has gone down significantly since their inception, but still expensive for many. Ship that 40’ container to Fernandina Beach, Florida, then divide it into 2 20’ containers! Let’s make alternative energy an affordable resource.
    Get greener! Together we can!

  5. Kathy Cervino says:

    Nicely written, Nick. I have the utmost respect for you in your effort to change the thinking in Bermuda.

    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”

  6. Russ Frith says:

    Nice article, Nick. I definately support your efforts to find ways to reduce the cost of solar power for Bermudians and spread the word. I also agree the more energy that can be generated without burning fossil fuels the better. Whether one believes global warming is real and caused by burning fossil fuels, continuing to pump CO2 into the atmosphere at present rates and hoping rising temperatures and sea levels and increase hurricane activity go away, really is a dumb experiment.

  7. Alan Burland says:

    I am pleased to pledge my support to this most worthy cause. I would like to see Bermuda lead by example showing the world what can be done to live and operate in a sustainable fashion. Bermuda has been slow to act so far but we can, and must, catch up for the sake of, ourselves, our industries and businesses, and future generations. Please Bermuda Government, Regulatory Authority and BELCO, be a key supporter, with us, of this initiative.

  8. Gil Nolan says:

    I do believe that Climate change is:
    “The single biggest threat to life, security and prosperity on Earth and, certainly one of the single biggest threats to our economy, qualifies as special circumstances.”
    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”

  9. Gil Nolan says:

    I do believe that Climate change is:
    “The single biggest threat to life, security and prosperity on Earth and, certainly one of the single biggest threats to our economy, qualifies as special circumstances.”
    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”
    I urge Bermuda to participate in the present Electricity IRP Review Process by submitting your thoughts on quality solutions for Bermuda’s energy future.
    Please do that this month before the deadline with delivery to the Regulatory Authority.
    Investment in renewables and grid infrastructure improvements today will yield significant value for our wallets and our environment.

  10. Claire Smith says:

    Great article Nick.

    “I commit to put forward my best effort in order to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change”

    As well, I will try to lower my footprint on the planet in all manner of activities being mindful of my usage of all resources.

    Bermuda needs to look towards alternative energy and away from huge investments in fossil fuels that will lock us into one fuel for years and years. Diversification of the energy supply is the way forward. Technology is moving more quickly than people expected. Prices are lowering and efficiencies are improving such that alternative energy is leading the energy future.

  11. Steve Lemming says:

    No more sea bed mining then Nick?

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