Twenty-seven percent of energy consumed in Belize is acquired from Mexico. The rest is obtained from fossil fuels, biomass and hydro, while the use of solar energy is growing. The Ministry of Energy believes that renewable energy resources can be exploited to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The savings, says the Minister of Energy, Joy Grant, are monies that can be used for projects that create jobs and opportunities. A forum this morning for the private sector looked at the financial and economic values of alternative sources of energy. Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities today held a private sector forum at the Biltmore Plaza. The event was to get investors to recognize that there is domestic resources that the private sector can use to harness free or cheaper energy and to depart from the use of fossil fuels. Minister Joy Grant says that the forum will focus on financial and economic challenges.
Joy Grant, Minister of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities
“Majority of what we spend as a country is spent on fossil fuels. So if we could reduce that bill, then the amount of money we save could be used for develop projects. And we all know that Belize needs to have development projects so we can employ our people. I also want to say that this is an area that can create jobs and bring investment and foreign exchange into the country. Certainly, we have a very low carbon footprint, while it is always a good thing to use less fossil fuels; that is important, but our focus this morning is on the financial and economic—that’s where I am focusing. We also have to look at the incentives currently being offered and again when we had those incentives in place, we didn’t think about renewal energy. So I have a consultant that is coming to look at the incentives that we are offering now, but also look at incentives in other countries that have increased investment in renewable energy so that we can take this—I cannot do this on my own, I’d have to take this to my colleagues in cabinet so that they can review it—and put this in place.”
While there has not been any data on the usage of wind energy, hydro energy harnessed by B.E.L. and solar and biomass energy, solar energy has become a widely used commodity. Minister Grant says that her ministry will focus on biomass energy which is the most viable and renewable resource that has not been exploited fully as an energy provider.
“We have had presentations from many in the private sector who are apparently utilizing solar and hydro and we’ve had quite an interesting discussion and we are going to continue that this afternoon so that we can see what the government of Belize can do or must do to make it easier for people to get investment in this sector and to also ensure that it is a profitable investment.”
Carlos Fuller, Regional/International Liaison Officer, CCCCC
“We have a lot of domestic resources that we can harness. We have a bit of hydro potential that we can use; we have just shown in Belmopan at the UB Campus where we have installed a solar farm—that is free energy that we can use. We do have some wind energy that is available especially if we use areas like in the mountain pine ridge. We are now looking at biomass production. We have a lot of natural resources that we are not using. We can expand the sugar industry. We have a lot of rice husks that we are not using; I think eighty percent is just being discarded and not being burnt. So we have a lot of biomass production that we can capture.”
But how does Belize fair off regionally when it comes to exploring alternative energy sources? Carlos Fuller, of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, says that compared to other CARICOM countries, Belize is on its way to sustaining itself with alternate sources.
“Belize is in two different positions. First of all, as a large mainland country, we have a challenge in having electrical distribution across the entire country while a small island nation like Barbados. Because it is small and the people are close together, it is very easy to cover a hundred of population. But in Belize we are closer to eighty percent coverage because of the large mass of the country and the population is widely distributed. On the other hand, Belize has a very good supply of renewable energy resources. So for example, hydro power, biomass power from bagasse production, solar and wind. So we can get energy from these other sources and in fact ninety-eight percent of the power produced in Belize domestically comes from renewable energy sources. However, that doesn’t include the amount that we have to import from Mexico through our interconnection grid.”
Another new technology that would be viable in Belize is O-tech, which according to Fuller, uses the heat from the sea to generate energy. Duane Moody for News Five.
Grant says that the ministry will review legislation with a view to introduce renewable energy mechanisms that must come free of cost to the government.