Reliable water, electricity, and natural gas services are available in Barbados. The Barbados energy sector includes petroleum production, importation, storage and distribution; natural gas production and distribution; electricity generation, transmission and distribution; and renewable energy. The Government, within the Ministry of Finance and Energy, has a dedicated Energy Division.

Oil Exploration & Production – About 1000 barrels of crude oil are produced daily from oil wells located mainly in the Woodbourne area in the parish of St. Philip in the southeast of the island. Oil is shipped to Trinidad for refining. Local oil production makes up about 15% of the islands total annual requirements for refined products and residual fuel oil. Other requirements are imported. More recently, surveys have indicated that there is potential for oil and gas exploration offshore of Barbados and the Government of Barbados has already started the process to have international oil companies become involved in offshore exploration.

Petroleum Storage & Distribution – The Barbados National Terminal Company Limited (BNTCL) is responsible for the storage of fuels and operates two fuel storage terminals. The first terminal is located adjacent to the Grantley Adams International Airport where light fuels including, gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel are stored. Product is distributed throughout the island from this location. The second terminal, located just outside of Bridgetown, is owned by ESSO Standard Oil S.A. and leased by BNTCL, where residual fuel oil (No.6 oil or Bunker ‘C’) is stored. Residual fuel oil is supplied via pipeline to the island’s base load electricity generating plant. Residual oil is also supplied to some other smaller users, as well as to ships, which bunker in Barbados.

ESSO, Texaco, and Shell operate modern petrol stations, or gas stations in Barbadian parlance. The Shell stations are operated under license by Simpson Oil Limited (SOL). These stations also distribute bottled LPG gas to residential customers for cooking.

Natural Gas – Barbados has long had a reliable natural gas distribution network operated by the government owned National Petroleum Corporation (http://npc.com.bb)that supplies approximately 20,000 residential and commercial customers. Natural gas is supplied to NPC from wells operated by the Barbados National Oil Company. The volume of gas supplied is modest, at about 1 million cubic feet per day. Indications are that the long-term reserves of natural gas are on the decline. The Government of Barbados is therefore investigating the importation of natural gas from Trinidad & Tobago.

Electricity – Electricity was first supplied in Barbados in 1911 and is now universally available. The Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (www.blpc.com.bb), an investor owned utility, provides a reliable service to about 119,000 customers at rates that, while higher than those in North America and Europe, are among the lowest in the Caribbean. The Company uses imported fuel oil for its generation, which is based on the most efficient low speed diesel generators available in the market, and in 2008 had sales of 944 GWh, a peak demand of 164 megawatts, and an installed capacity of 239 megawatts. Electricity is supplied at 50Hz and at standard voltages as set out by BLPC.The Fair Trading Commission, a government regulatory body, is responsible for regulating electricity rates and stipulating the standards of service.

Renewable Energy – Barbados, located as it is in a high sunshine area and in the tradewinds has the opportunity to benefit from renewable energy sources. Barbados has been pioneering in the use of solar hot water heaters in the Caribbean and has a well-established solar hot water heating industry. About 30 percent of homes have solar hot water heaters, representing one of the higher densities of solar water heating in the world. (Reference Solar Dynamics and Sunpower websites)

Wind is an available resource, and the island used to have many windmills for water pumping and, generations ago, for sugar mills. Today, wind energy is being proposed with the installation of a 10 megawatt wind farm in the north of the island. The matter is under review by the island’s Town & Country Development Planning Office.

Other sources of renewable energy are also under consideration by the Government of Barbados, including the use of bagasse, the waste produced by the production of sugar from sugar cane, to produce electricity. One challenge however, is that the island’s sugar industry, once the mainstay of the economy, is now in decline. For smaller, home based systems, a feed-in tariff for renewable energy is being proposed by the electric utility and is currently under review by the Fair Trading Commission.

Water Production and Distribution – The Government owned Barbados Water Authority (http://www.bwa.bb) is responsible for the supply and distribution of water. Water is universally available. Barbados is classified as a water scarce country. For most of its history, up until the 1990s, Barbados has been able to meet the demand for water by extraction from natural underground aquifers. The majority of water continues to be supplied from this source, but the water requirements are now supplemented by production from a brackish water reverse osmosis from Ionics Freshwater Ltd., under a build-own-operate contract with the BWA.

Barbadians have enjoyed a reliable water service and a high standard of water quality. Maintaining a high level of water quality is increasingly challenging issue and the increasing development of Barbados has put pressures. Water rates are set by Government, but Government has signaled its intent to bring the regulation of the BWA under the regulatory authority, the Fair Trading Commission.

About the Author

Peter Williams
Peter Williams - Managing Director, Light & Power Holdings Limited

Peter Williams is Managing Director of Light & Power Holdings Limited. He holds a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Manchester University (UK), an MSc (Electrical Power Systems) from The University of the West Indies and an MBA from The Ivey Business School, University of Western Ontario, Canada. He is a Member of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (UK) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (USA), and is a Past President of the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers.