Column: Security Of Our Energy Supply Part III

July 12, 2018

[Opinion column written by Nick Hutchings]

I finished Part II of this essay by asking our decision makers if they believe 97% of climate scientists are correct in their assertion that climate change is, to a very large degree, the result of burning fossil fuel and, if they do, would they also agree that waiting to see it those scientists are right, is the “dumbest experiment in history”.

If so, will they then stand with the vast majority of the international Governmental and Regulatory community, regardless of whether Bermuda has a treaty obligation under the Paris Agreement to do so 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?

While such a gesture would be completely worthy of our leaders, the truth is that, noble as it would be, the actual significance given Bermuda’s minute impact on climate compared to countries like China and Brazil, would merely be symbolic.

Having said that however, making a commitment to strengthen our local response to the threat of climate change is nothing less than a matter of national security.

Imagine for a minute what will happen if the lights go out for a sustained period of time like it did all over the Caribbean last year. What do you think International Business will do? How would that affect key economic factors like national debt service, GDP, foreign earnings, the balance of trade and, in turn, job security?

Every child knows not to put all their eggs in one basket but that is precisely what our utility has done by building a hub and spoke grid connected to a centralized generation plant that is barely more than a foot above high water. The lesson we should learn from Katrina and Sandy is: just because low lying areas in New York and New Orleans had not suffered devastating flooding in the past, did mean they were safe.

When Dr. the Honorable Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier of the BVI, spoke at the Ocean Risk Summit recently held at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science, he highlighted the harsh lessons his region learnt from Irma and Maria and urged us to diversify our energy supply mix in response to the very real threat of climate change.

The bottom line is that the further away from the centre of the grid [ground zero], electricity is generated, the more secure it is and consequently, the more resilient the whole system becomes. Residential and small commercial solar along with energy efficiency and energy conservation, also known as distributed energy resources [DER], is a highly diversified energy source which feeds the grid from the outside in.

DER has always been secure, clean and self-funding but, until very recently it has been too expensive to be a major player. This has now changed and, as a result, distributed energy resources are growing organically. Today, an independent customer sourced 7.8 KW solar system generates power for 5 cents/KWh.

The Government GIS [geographic information system] shows the roof area of all the buildings in Bermuda. If we use 20% of the total roof area, we can develop 160 MW of solar capacity which converts to 36% of our electricity demand. Combined with a modest 10% reduction in energy use from energy efficiency and conservation, the DER [distributed energy resource] will provide nearly 50% of our electricity demand.

There is also an added economic benefit from DER that is self-financed with Bermuda dollars. More money stays in the local economy by reducing the outflow of cash for imported oil and repayment of foreign sourced CAPX, which improves the balance of trade and grows GDP.

Becoming an independent home energy producer is not only the right thing to do, in that it helps sustain our best efforts to strengthen the global and local response to the threat of climate change but also the smart thing to do in that it saves money and makes the local economy stronger and more secure.

- 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 (2)

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  1. Retro says:

    I agree but also don’t you think we should be getting the power lines underground?

  2. I did this on my babies property at cost…Belco informed me that doing so saved them approximately 350 thousand a year in wind cause repairs.