Column: Bermuda Better Energy Plan Meeting

November 14, 2018

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

I recently attended a community meeting that spoke to concerns that I’ve had since hearing last month’s urgent report by a United Nations agency on the matter of climate change.

On Thursday, November 8th, I joined at least 130 residents gathered at St. Paul AME, Centennial Hall to listen to presentations on the implications of Bermuda’s Energy Use and its future environmental and economic implications for families, our island and the globe. The gathering was a joint initiative of the charity Greenrock and ‘Be Solar’ – a small alternative-energy business.

Greenrock’s Eugene Dean set the stage for the audience by explaining that the two organizations had collaborated to produce the ‘Better Energy Plan’. This detailed plan has been developed over the past few months, in response to the process set out by the island’s Regulatory Authority [RA], to determine the ‘way forward’ for Bermuda regarding our approach for the production of the Island’s electrical energy.

Eugene explained that given the history of utility-monopoly in Bermuda, BELCO had been given ‘first dibs’ in offering a plan for the future for the island’s energy supply. The second phase of the RA’s process, involved an invitation to all other community stakeholders to provide a possible alternative plan, to that of BELCO.

‘Be Solar’ took up this challenge – with the subsequent support of Greenrock – to develop an alternative plan, with the technical help of a U.K.-based energy consultancy – Etude. These international experts included a team-member – Chris Worbys – whose mother happens to be Bermudian who worked for the local Department of Energy almost a decade ago.

Town Hall Meeting Bermuda November 2018 (1)

Eugene went on to point out that this process has now come ‘down to the wire’, in that the Regulatory Authority has set a deadline of November 30th for input. Consequently, the November 8th meeting was critical in that regard, as it was an opportunity to invite the wider community to provide their input in this vital process.

All residents are being invited to make submissions to the Regulatory Authority. The implications being that the outcome will determine an energy framework for at least two decades.

Kendaree Burgess opened the meeting’s presentations with a brief overview of a Review commissioned by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce. This inquiry was conducted by a group of U.S.-based graduate students, with the goal of accessing how Bermuda might prepare for future challenges to our economy. One conclusion reached by this team was the need for the island to diversify energy supply.

This was followed by a presentation by three team-members from ‘Etude’, who provided a detailed overview of the ‘Bermuda Better Energy Plan’. The team-members included two members with Masters of Science and one PhD in the relevant disciplines and they used the occasion to help the audience to understand the implications of this complex matter. They did this by comparing the alternative plan with that of BELCO’s.

The team contrasted the outcomes for the two different approaches. BELCO’s goal for the next two decades – up to 2038 – would have alternative energy providing 5 – 10% of the Total Energy Needs.

The ‘Better Energy Plan’ has a goal of 60% of total source being provided by alternative energy sources by 2038. These ‘alternatives’ would include mostly solar and some wind power – both sources being clean and lower costs per kilowatt than fossil fuel.

Town Hall Meeting Bermuda November 2018 (2)

The team provided an overview of their costing-assessment that factored in the initial capital costs for the alternatives, as well as predicted maintenance costs.

They then provided an explanation of how this could be achieved, noting that the ‘Better Energy Plan’ would include having BELCO provide ‘back-up’. However, this would result in a reduction in cost to customers and a reduction in pollution since only 40% of Energy Needs would require fossil fuel by 2038.

Amongst the interesting slides in their presentation included a bar-graph showing the plans of a number of our southern neighbours and their goals for the next two decades.

With BELCO’s goal for 5 – 10% for alternative energy sources, Bermuda would obviously be ‘behind the 8-ball’. St Kitt’s goal is 30% Alternative, while Jamaica has a goal of 50%, Cayman’s is 70% and Grenada 100%.

An important point regarding the long-term implications of an acceptance of the BELCO plan is that it would tend to lock in our island to fossil fuel for the next two and more decades. This is because their plan involves the creation of a new LNG storage facility, costing an estimated $120 million. While this alternative fossil fuel is somewhat cleaner than the currently used heavy oil, it does offer challenges regarding storage safety.

My wife and I are blessed with 3 grandsons, all under 5 years old. The decision that is being made regarding the island’s future approach to energy supply, will have substantial implications, not only for them, but all youngsters, in Bermuda and around the globe. Anyone who wishes to make a difference in securing that shared future can find out more at www.bermudabetterenergyplan.bm

- Glenn Fubler

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Comments (2)

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  1. Family Man says:

    The price of natural gas has risen 50% in the past year. Crude oil prices were up 50% as well but have since dropped to only a 15% increase. Belco doesn’t care – they just increase your fuel adjustment clause.

    With alternative energy sources like wind and solar, there is no fuel price adjustment. It’s fixed for the next 20 years.

  2. Real Deal says:

    for get about globe warming Bermuda needs to be energy independent- this is the type of foundation we need to sit on top of. this would make us unshaken by any pasa pasa the oil heads want to start up in the future