EVEN as Saint Lucia presses forward with its renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts, the big challenge lies in convincing the masses to recognize the importance of playing their part in the process.
So says CharlinBodley, Environmental Engineer in the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science& Technology. The VOICE spoke to Bodley last Saturday when the ministry held its inaugural National Private Sector Energy Fair in the Mega J car park at Choc.
The fair was the culmination of this year’s Energy Awareness Week which ran from November 9-15 and was held under the theme, “Energy Sustainability for Economic Prosperity – We’ve Got The Power”. This year’s theme sought to catalyze a national response to the many opportunities for economic benefit from investments in cleaner and sustainable sources of energy.
“The objective this year was really to take renewable energy and energy efficiency away from the normal theoretical discussions and make it a real-life experience,” Bodley told The VOICE. “We’re hoping that the average Saint Lucian on an individual level can buy into energy efficiency and renewable energy and realize the obvious benefits for them.”
While much time and resources have been channeled into communicating the energy efficiency and renewable energy message in a bid to create a sustainable energy future, there still seems to be some hesitancy on the part of the average consumer of energy to buy into the energy conservation message. Bodley said it all comes down to what sounds feasible for consumers.
“I think the tough economy is a bit of a constraint in terms of achieving that sustainable energy future,” Bodley said. “When we talk about energy efficiency, one of the main points brought up by people is that a high initial investment is required. I think that people have not yet understood the long-term benefits and the payback. If we can get people to understand that the cost benefit analysis; people need to understand the benefits to the costs that they are going to invest.”
Bodley said that another factor that might be a part of the problem was that many people do not understand the technology, hence they don’t buy into it. People, she said, need to understand the technology and know about it. The Ministry’s acknowledgement of this, she says, is one of the major reasons for the hosting of the fair.
“We figured that while government is focusing its efforts on developing our renewable sources, we need to also get people interested and knowledgeable about what’s taking place,” Bodley states.
According to Bodley, when ministry officials started organizing the fair, they realized that there were companies in Saint Lucia that they did not know about. As a result, these new companies have since registered with the ministry in its quest to achieving a sustainable energy future.
Just over a dozen private sector companies took part in Saturday’s energy fair, including LUCELEC, a key partner in government’s efforts to move forward with renewable energy and energy efficiency in Saint Lucia. The participating companies showcased various goods and services they provide, giving prospective customers an insight into what the various technologies are and how they can help in cutting down the cost of energy usage while maintaining efficiency.
Bodley said her ministry hopes to continue hosting the fair annually. This year’s event was majorly sponsored by the Taiwanese Embassy, LUCELEC, Michel’s Electrical, and LIME, to name a few. She added that one of the recommendations for next year’s fair is to invite students from the island’s schools to showcase their projects that are usually entered in the National Science Fair.
During this year’s Energy Awareness Week, activities such as car-pooling week, school lectures, debates and panel discussions, photo and art competitions and public sector transportation workshop, were held. The transportation sector, which is the leading consumer of energy locally, as well as the agro-processing sector, which employs the practice of solar drying, came into focus.
According to recent pronouncements by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science & Technology, significant progress in developing Saint Lucia’s geothermal potential, paired with prospects in the development of a solar wind farm in Vieux Fort, have the potential of positioning the island on new horizons of economic prosperity.