by Larry Smith
If you visit the Stronger Bahamas Facebook page, a recent post proclaims our intention to cut greenhouse emissions by 30 per cent within 15 years, and insists that the government is “delivering" on its promises.
Let me explain. Last year, Prime Minister Perry Christie announced Stronger Bahamas as a “non-partisan public engagement and communications initiative” - with a $4 million taxpayer-funded budget.
The opposition denounced it as a propaganda campaign. And it is certainly true that the communications thrust is to paint a rosy and (many would say) totally unrealistic picture of the current state of affairs in our country.
The Facebook post about carbon emissions is a spectacular case in point. The post referred to Environment Minister Ken Dorsett’s 2015 budget address.
“When we took office (it) was obvious we could not go about business as usual,” he declared back then. “We have made major strides in climate change mitigation and renewable energy deployment."
In support of this vague assertion, Dorsett pointed to a reduction of tariffs on energy-efficient appliances and a new regulatory regime for solar power generation - a regime that has never been implemented.
He went on to insist that the government is “advancing renewable energy options to improve energy security, create jobs and provide for public-private participation in the power sector."
Touting the national energy policy (developed over three administrations and completely out of touch with reality), he said renewables would have a 30 per cent share of our energy mix by 2033 - so far into the future as to be meaningless. Dorsett also envisioned solar power plants on many out islands - including at BAMSI on Andros.
In his latest budget address, Dorsett focused more on the prospects of obtaining international funding for unspecified "climate change mitigation” projects. And he boasted about his election as chairman of the International Renewable Energy Agency.
But despite this portentous appointment, there was no talk of actual renewable energy projects in the Bahamas. It was all about accessing money from whatever source possible for studies - typically a means of delaying real change while looking busy.
In summary, as Dorsett said fantastically, “It should be clear to everyone that we are on our way to a renewable energy future.” And this is the talking point that the Stronger Bahamas campaign was trying to articulate on its Facebook post.
As we said above, it is a totally unrealistic picture - for the following reasons:
So clearly, business as usual is precisely what this government is about. Our leaders only talk about change, they never get around to actually making it.
And those who think that renewable energy - wind and solar in particular - are not at a stage of development that would allow us to effectively implement projects here should think again.
And Bloomberg New Energy News reports that the government of Chile recently accepted a bid from a Spanish developer to sell power from a 120-megawatt solar plant for less than 3 cents per kilowatt-hour.
“That’s the cheapest to date for any kind of renewable energy,” Bloomberg said, "and was almost half the price of coal power sold in the same (auction) event. Prices for electricity generation have changed drastically in the last years."
We suggest that the Stronger Bahamas writers and designers should diversify their reading beyond the convoluted and contradictory speeches of government ministers.