SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

Barbados: The Goldilocks Approach to Sustainability

By Rik van Hemmen

Mathematically, worldwide sustainable energy is a real possibility, but it will require a very significant change in thinking, attitudes, efforts, and financial commitments to accomplish. All over the world we are encountering experiments, trials, and even significant changes in human attitudes, but, so far, we cannot point at an integrated success story of societal change.

On October 2, 2019 we presented at the Barbados Sustainable Energy Conference on SurfWEC, the United Nations – Global Partnership for Ocean Wave Energy Technology (GPOWET), and MaxiTaxi. The conference was the formal introduction of the Barbados “Roadmap to 2030” energy sustainability plan which aims at a massive transformation to sustainable energy on the Island.

We have discussed the Orkney project in this blog and this effort is producing excess energy in a small island community, but we are overdue for making this effort in a community that more closely resembles an integrated economy.

Turning countries like the United States, England, Norway or the Netherlands into sustainable energy societies is a massive undertaking and can easily be held back by naysayers and special interests. Instead, it makes sense to find a place that is neither too large nor too small, and neither too energy intensive nor too energy efficient.

Before the conference, I had never studied Barbados closely, but Barbados is an amazingly suitable candidate for the next step.

This 21 mile by 14 mile island country with a population of 280,000 well educated citizens should deserve special attention and support by the international community in effecting a rapid changeover to a sustainable economy.

The following data pretty much convinced me that this is a golden opportunity that should not be missed:

  1. 1. A unified and deliberative democratic government.
  2. 2. An internally developed plan to achieve sustainability by 2030.
  3. 3. A relatively wide ranging economy that includes tourism, farming, some manufacturing, trade (it has a stock market) and even oil and gas production.
  4. 4. High fiscal integrity.
  5. 5. Well educated population.
  6. 6. A natural candidate for wind, solar, waves, and biomass from sugar cane waste.
  7. 7. Relatively well developed infrastructure, similar to many American communities (functional but requiring age related upgrades).
  8. 8. Some success with sustainable energy, particularly roof top solar water heaters.
  9. 9. A natural candidate for conversion of all transport to Electric Vehicles (EV) and/or MaxiTaxi. Even taxi drivers do not drive more than 150 miles per day!
  10. 10. An awareness by the national oil company and utilities that conversion is an economic opportunity rather than an assault on their business model.

All the transformation requires is money. The startup technologies involved are mature enough to enable the transformation. There is significant support by the international banking community, but banks lend and have not historically invested in startup technologies.

Instead, the world’s countries, particularly UN member states, should look at Barbados as their proof of concept candidate, not because Barbados deserves the investment more than others, but rather because, once the concept of true sustainable communities has been proven, it will be easier for the rest of the world to see that it can be done and how it benefits humanity and begin to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

An international investment pool on the order of $1 billion would ensure that the infrastructure can be converted rapidly with resilient systems. That is big money, but a small investment when drawn from the world’s wealthiest countries. (Quite frankly it is an excellent charitable foundation investment; Bill, Melinda, Mark, Warren, Jeff, Ted?) This is not a handout, because Barbados citizens are not in need of continuous support. It simply means that there will be sufficient incentives to induce Barbadians to transition from internal combustion engine powered cars to personal and commercial EV’s and public transportation, to fit roof top solar systems, and to invest in wind and wave solutions with a real incentive for all Barbadians to become world leaders in sustainability. Based on my discussions with many people in the streets of Barbados, (and all over the world) there is genuine interest in personal conversion to sustainability, but it requires some additional energy for people to make the leap. We simply need to provide that extra energy (Energy = Money) for everyone in one place to show it can be done. In my opinion, Barbados is that place.

Most amazingly, because Barbados has a very substantial tourism industry, once all the hotels, homes, beaches and transportation have been converted to true sustainability, the world can come to visit to see what can be accomplished when we stop talking about sustainability and start doing it.

 

An impression of a sustainable, expandable power triad producing an average of approximately 350 MW of electricity, including 150MW from SurfWEC units, about 1/3 to 1/2 of what is needed to currently power all of Barbados depending on seasonal/tourist variations

 

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