STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE HONOURABLE ANDREW A. FAHIE
DURING THE FIFTH SITTING OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday, 20th February, 2020
Building the Energy Sector
Mister Speaker I will now turn to what we are doing as a Territory to build the BVI’s Energy Sector.
I want to ensure that its contents is committed into the minutes of this Honourable House so that Honourable Members are aware because building the solar energy sector will require the commitment of all of us working together, moving together, one as a hand, building this economy, district by district.
You would recall that alternative energy was one of the key issues on which my team campaigned for the 2019 General Election.
We promised that if you gave us the opportunity, we would make alternative energy not just a conversation but a commodity to households across our Territory.
The impact on our electricity supply caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017 reminds us of the fragility of traditional sources of energy.
The exorbitant cost to restore adequate energy supply to our communities highlights the need for us to create sustainable energy sources using innovative technologies while driving a cleaner environment.
At a time when the Territory’s revenue supply is threatened, alternative energy is a gateway to provide meaningful employment, additional revenue streams and foster citizen participation in building the BVI’s energy sector.
Mister Speaker, our grid must be made more resilient. It is time for alternative sources of energy to be part of the process that drives our economy forward.
This was the case that we put to you as we asked for your support 11 months ago.
Immediately upon taking office, your Government hit the ground running to deliver on this promise. Over the last 11 months, through tireless work, we have made significant progress towards our Green vision, and a number of initiatives are presently in train.
Our aim is to be 60 percent Green by 2030 or before.
Within the first month of your Government’s tenure, the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC) was mandated to take a leading role in driving the Territory’s transition to Green energy sources.
Solar and wind energy are free to us as gifts from God.
The BVIEC, within the first month of your Government’s term, launched its Green energy initiative in which residents wishing to install distributed generation renewable energy were encouraged to either download the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Connection from BVIEC’s website (bvielectrictity.com) or to obtain hard copy applications at the BVIEC branches located at Long Bush, Road Town, and the Valley, Virgin Gorda.
Mister Speaker, in the 2020 Budget Address, you would recall, I announced that there would be zero tax on the import of clean energy systems such as solar and wind power generation equipment, hybrid vehicles and conversion of vehicles to Liquified Propane Gas (LPG), for a period of one year.
Also, I announced that there would be a comprehensive mechanism for private citizens who generate their own electricity to earn revenue by selling power back to the national grid. By the end of 2020, instead of you paying BVIEC for electricity, it can be the other way around if you Go Green.
This is how your young, new Government has been working for you.
I want to urge citizens to make the most of these incentives because the financial and environmental benefits to individuals and to the Territory as a whole are tremendous and lucrative.
While we encourage citizens to adopt Green and SMART technology and habits, your Government is also leading the way. We have mandated that all Government infrastructure must also be Green and SMART.
Mister Speaker, as I speak, we are on the way to making Anegada the first island in the Virgin Islands to generate its own electricity. BVIEC is rolling out a project to create a microgrid powered by solar energy using solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and battery storage.
This microgrid will assist with reducing the number of resources needed to run the energy plant on Anegada. One of the complications with the present system is getting fuel to Anegada to run the power plant and this affects the reliability of electricity supply on the island. The Anegada microgrid will provide a solution to that problem and improve the comfort of our people.
Last November, a solar power system was installed in the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) building in East End through a partnership involving BVIEC and a BVI-based renewable energy company, aTec.
This is a grid-tied system and is helping BVIEC to develop the policies, systems and regulations for our transformation of the energy sector including the introduction of net-billing for customers to sell excess power to the grid.
Affordable, reliable and accessible electricity power for all residents and visitors throughout the length and breadth of the Virgin Islands will give us the competitive advantage we need to achieve our Territory’s Vision of transforming into a leading regional economy by 2025 through innovation, entrepreneurship and local and foreign investment.
Affordable, reliable and accessible electricity power is one of the base resources for a digitally and technologically driven economy.
Mister Speaker, that is one of the mantras of my Administration that our Virgin Islands people must be able to participate in the economic opportunities from all development activity, especially in the area of job creation.
In order to prepare our people for jobs in our new Green energy industry, your Government has successfully sealed a partnership involving the Premier’s Office, BVIEC, Power52 and the H Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC) to train youth from across all nine Districts in the installation of renewable energy systems. This training programme was launched last month. It is yet another promise delivered by your new Government.
Mister Speaker, graduates of this programme will move into employment in the BVI’s Green energy industry, complementing our 1,000 Jobs in 1,000 Days programme which is doing well, through the support of the private sector and other stakeholders, to place Virgin Islanders in stable, meaningful careers, so that they can take care of their families and personal obligations, and achieve their aspirations.
Your Government and our partners are equipping Virgin Islanders to thrive and to be resilient in the competitive global technological era that defines the world today and in the future.
To explain the financial implications of Going Green for the BVI people and the Territory’s economy.
All fossil fuel consumed in the BVI is imported from other countries.
The average base cost of fossil fuel over the past five years is $2.18 per gallon.
I am advised that the average consumption of fossil fuel in the BVI is presently 1 million gallons per month. Therefore, the BVI consumes $2.18 million in fossil fuel per month at base cost. That is $26.16 million per year, and $130.8 million over five years, that is leaving our shores to enrich other countries and other economies. Put another way, the BVI people and our economy loses $26.16 million every year by importing fossil fuel.
As our economy grows our fuel consumption will grow even further beyond the 1 million gallons per month, and this means even more money will be leaving our shores.
Green energy is free.
Thus, by reducing our fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, we can reduce this leakage by about $15.7 million per year, based on the current usage and prices. That would be savings for the people of the Virgin Islands of $78.5 million dollars over the next five years.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and LPG are cleaner and cheaper fuels. Therefore, there will be even further savings and benefits for the BVI people when we switch to CNG and LPG for the remaining 40 percent of our fuel needs.
This is money that can remain in the pockets of Virgin Islanders or money which you, the people, can spend on other things such as improving your homes and properties, buying food or educating and caring for your children, or you can put that into your savings. That is money that can strengthen the BVI’s economy instead of some other country’s economy.
Mister Speaker, imagine the possibilities for you and your family if we can stop sending these millions of dollars abroad and instead utilise it to improve your quality of life.
Mister Speaker, imagine the amount of pollution we can cut down on by reducing the consumption of dirty fossil fuel by 60 percent or more.
We can do it, and together, we will do it by transitioning away from fossil fuel and into Green energy with you the people at the centre of it all, participating, saving, earning and preserving, and protecting our natural environment.
This Government is pressing forward to meet our Green energy targets so that the people of the BVI prosper.
To ensure that this is done properly and in a timely manner, we will be, in short order, soliciting the services of an energy expert to work between the Premiers Office and the BVIEC Board so that our Green energy transformation is a success.
Through these initiatives, the BVI’s Green Energy industry is lifting off and is set to grow, bringing benefits for the people of the BVI.
This Government intends to commence a series of public awareness meetings in March 2020 to educate the population on how they can participate in our Green economy and how you can go about accessing the benefits and incentives of our Green initiatives.
I also wish to state for the benefit of the business community and investors that the Government of the Virgin Islands is open to receiving unsolicited proposals on how we can create partnerships that will assist us in achieving our vision to the benefit of all.
Mister Speaker, you would recall that during the 2019 election campaign, my team and I promised that if you gave us the opportunity, we would make alternative energy not just a conversation but a commodity to households across our Territory. You can see that we are doing exactly that.
This is what your Government promised the people and this is what we are working tirelessly to deliver now.
Our achievements and strides as this Government stand as testimony to our commitment to honouring our pledges to the people for the trust that they have reposed in us.
Mister Speaker, this Government is aware that the confidence of the people of this Territory is well placed in us to move in the direction of preserving these islands.
I thank you.