FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA — Stakeholders from the government of The Bahamas and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are focusing their efforts on creating the right mix of policy and investment designed to reinvigorate post-Hurricane Dorian recovery efforts, particularly in the northern Bahamas. With another active hurricane season less than a month away now, those plans took center stage as part of a special panel hosted by organizers of the annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook Seminar.
IDB Chief of Operations Maria Eugenia Roca explained: “Dorian exposed some critical shortfalls in various systems. It is critical to rethink the future of The Bahamas to address structural challenges.”
She further acknowledged the exacerbated impact of the global pandemic on an already challenging environment.
Issues surrounding energy security, transformation and resilience have topped that recovery agenda as stakeholders, which included teams from the Ministry of Finance, worked to take decisive and innovative steps toward responding in an agile way to the more than $200 million in energy-related damages caused by Dorian.
The Ministry of Finance’s Reconstruction With Resilience in the Energy Sector of The Bahamas Program has overhauled and replaced hundreds of miles of damaged and aging infrastructure on Grand Bahama and Abaco.
This work represented phase one of the multimillion-dollar initiative designed to address major structural barriers to energy transformation in the short-term, all while pressing ahead with plans to expand and diversify sustainable energy options within the sector and train countless industry stakeholders as part of a medium and longer-term goal. Barriers such as financial and infrastructural gaps, as well as the absence of adequate renewable energy regulations and an overall lack of resiliency, have long been a hinderance to the forward movement of the sector.
IDB Clean Energy Senior Specialist Juan Paredes noted: “Resiliency is very important in cases of a disastrous event. This does not only include natural events but takes into consideration scenarios like potential cyberattacks on the grid as well.”
The program’s introduction of storm-resilient infrastructure and new microgrid systems to both Abaco and Grand Bahama will shore up energy security on both islands and are also expected to have a far-reaching socioeconomic impact on the country at large.
A total of $80 million has been allocated for this phase, focusing on more stable and efficient transmission and generation.
IDB Senior Regional Energy Specialist Dr Malaika Masson said: “Through a funding facility provided by the IDB, The Bahamas will have access to some $170 million earmarked for energy transformation over the next eight to 10 years.
Touting the macroeconomic support that will also be provided through this program, she noted: “As we move forward, we will also include New Providence and the return on that investment could net millions over the next 10 years.”
Those plans, according to Program Coordinator Stanford Moss, have been bolstered by the necessary scientific and feasibility studies that have helped chart the course toward creating a more climate-resilient system.
As sweeping changes begin to take place across the industry, stakeholders anticipate that investment in the renewable and sustainable energy sector will become more widespread, attracting both local and international interest. This is the time when innovative financing instruments are required — such as the Renewable Energy Fund mentioned by Dr Masson — for The Bahamas.
Considerable success has already been recorded in the storm-ravaged northern Bahamas and officials assert that the ultimate goal is the development of an energy system that provides a better quality of life for Bahamians with fewer disruptions, increased reliability and a stronger, more resilient economy.