Barbados has launched a multimillion-dollar fund that it hopes will spur efforts towards the development of a renewable-energy sector which the authorities said is critical to restructuring the local economy as the island moves to become a world leader in energy efficiency.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told the launch of the Sustainable Energy Investment Programme or Energy Smart Fund that it (the fund) would act as a catalyst towards making this country a "cleaner economy".
The Energy Smart Fund is a package of financial instruments and technical assistance that aims to increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in Barbados.
Stuart said the fund "would not only facilitate subsidised loans for the implementation of viable renewable energy and energy-efficient projects, but it will also provide grants to businesses for funding pre-investment studies, assessing the technical and financial viability of these projects.
"These facilities will be available to businesses within all sectors, from manufacturers to hotels, farmers and small enterprises," Stuart said, adding that small entrepreneurs would be able to partner with the Enterprise Growth Fund Ltd. as 'Smart Fund Partners' to provide technical expertise by conducting energy audits and other studies necessary for businesses wishing to access the Fund.
Funding for the BDS$20-million (US$10 million) project is being provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and it is being designed in collaboration with the Enterprise Growth Fund Ltd.
Financial and technical support
It will provide financial and technical support to renewable energy and energy-efficient projects in Barbados.
Stuart said other initiatives supported by the Energy Smart Fund would include a pilot project which would provide interest-rate rebates to selected retailers that had experience in 'hire-purchase' consumer-finance schemes.
He said they would, in turn, offer better hire-purchase terms to their customers to purchase renewable energy and energy-efficient appliances at a subsidised cost. He said the project could be expanded in the future.
"The comprehensive investment programme also includes the provision of rebates for customers wishing to replace older air-conditioning models to more energy efficient and ozone-depleting, substance-free systems as well as the distribution of energy efficient lighting to domestic consumers," he added.
Stuart said studies have shown that over the next 20 years Barbados could achieve a renewable energy matrix in which renewable-energy generation would account for approximately 29 per cent of electricity consumption.