It is fair to say that Barbados is a global hotspot for renewable; energy certainly not in terms of the installed capacity but surely in terms of the environmental and economic conditions. The abundant sunshine that draws tourists from all over the world to the island and the increasing electricity prices that irritate householders and businesses alike create a combination that can only be found in very few places in the world. And it is extremely attractive for the generation of clean energy.
After implementing solar power projects in Europe and especially Germany, the world’s largest market for clean energy, Cleanplant has chosen to adopt a strategy that shall prove that renewables work without any subsidies. The decrease or removal of subsidies is currently a big challenge for the developed renewable energy markets, where the boom of the industry was subsidized in one way or the other. The founders therefore began studying the Barbados market in 2010 and formed a subsidiary with local business partners as a joint venture and implemented a pilot plant in summer 2012. Since then, Cleanplant Ltd. has been actively supporting the development of the Cleantech market in Barbados and installed further plants.
With established relationships to the main suppliers of high quality products worldwide and drawing on the experience of engineers who are responsible for building the largest solar plants in the world, Cleanplant can today offer in Barbados virtually any clean power solution that is available on the world market from solar power to wind and energy storage solutions. From a technical perspective, the coastal climate and the distinctiveness of Barbados’ grid pose some challenges. This is really why Cleanplant recommends to employ high quality components and good engineering in any clean power plant to make sure that they actually last for the many years that will ensure good profitability.
The experience with Cleanplant’s pilot system is overall positive. Yields are above expectations and equipment works perfectly with Barbados’ grid and environmental conditions. However, there have been some pitfalls with the administrative and inspection processes. These can certainly be avoided once all relevant stakeholders become more comfortable with the benefits and “behavior” of renewable energy systems.
The benefits to operators of solar plants and Barbadians in general are amazingly great. Generating clean power is much more profitable in the Caribbean than in Europe and most other places. In fact, more than double the returns and thus half the payback period can be expected. For investors, this is a great opportunity. Financial institutions are beginning to position themselves but capital is still not as easily available as one would expect. This is mainly due to the aspect of certainty. Investment decisions are usually made when risk and return are in a favorable relation. Some projects may offer in excess of 20% annual return on investment and yet investors seem to be hesitant. And although the risk in fact is manageable, investors must regard it as fairly great. Therefore, a lack in transparency exists and we must work in order to close the gap between what is known to the utility and some installers and the general public as well as investors.
It can be hoped, for the advantage of everybody interested in generating their own clean power that the New Year will begin with the announcement of a permanent feed in scheme that is reliable, predictable and attractive. In fact, it is Cleanplant’s belief that it is in the utility’s very interest to offer a scheme that is attractive; because otherwise they would give an incentive to people to go off the grid altogether, thereby eroding the utility’s revenue base. Furthermore, the generation of clean power is already cheaper than the conventional alternative.
Out of the Caribbean islands Barbados has one of the most advanced feed in schemes and a population that is inclined to using renewable energy sources. It further has the financial base that in principal could finance the change to a cleaner energy future. Therefore, Cleanplant is convinced that it was the right step to set up operations in Barbados and help the development of the country’s Cleantech sector with experience from overseas.
The great thing is that with the change towards a cleaner economy literally everyone in the country wins – which is a very unusual situation. The householders and businesses who install clean power plants enjoy the benefits of good returns on investment and the opportunity to do something good for the environment. The environment itself benefits. The installers of plants, electricians, hardware stores as well as civil workers generate more business. One might think that the utility loses but they simply replace the need to buy fuel from overseas by getting fuel from the sun which is clean, free and endless. The only party losing out is the petroleum companies who are still shipping fossil fuel to Barbados. But firstly, it is debatable whether the oil should not have stayed in the earth in the first place. And secondly, this is where the real gain for the country comes: The energy is now fully generated inside the nation and no foreign reserves are necessary to do that.