Editorial: Naïve optimism

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There have been few bright spots in the news regarding Barbuda, and rather than being stuck in a cycle of doom and gloom, we should all look positively toward the future – both for Antigua and Barbuda. Over the past couple of weeks, we have attempted to point out the possible silver linings to the cloud that was Hurricane Irma, and we must admit that we have been a bit disappointed by the response. Even agreement is met with skepticism and a healthy dose of negativity.
That is not to say that we do not understand that it is hard to overlook the devastation and the complexities of a new Barbuda, but dwelling on the past does not do anyone any good. If we are to rebuild Barbuda and make Antigua and Barbuda better places, then we need to let go of the past, especially things that we cannot change, so that we do not become anchored in that place too long. If we become stuck in time, there will be no progression, and many of our opportunities will be lost because they require quick thinking and decision-making.
The only constant in life is change, and that is the point that we have reached. Barbuda will undergo a sea of changes, which, if managed properly, and in consultation with the people, we can create a Shangri-La in the Caribbean. For those of you not familiar with James Hilton’s 1933 novel, “Lost Horizons,” Shangri-La was a fictional place that was described as an earthly paradise. People were permanently happy there, to the point where they were almost immortal and aged extremely slowly in appearance.
We need to cut off the trolls right now and say that we do not expect immortality in a new Barbuda, but we do expect that we can build both Antigua and Barbuda into places of immense happiness and economic success following the passage of Irma. And if you want to call that naïve optimism, then we are happy with that label.
And speaking of being happy, we were overjoyed to hear the news that Barbuda will enjoy the benefits of a new US$ 3.1 million solar plant. Our love for renewable energy is well known, and we would like to thank the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for funding this initiative.  Boasting that Barbuda will be a green energy island is a fantastic step in the rebuilding process, and we hope that the 800 kilowatt is just the first step toward a future boast that Barbuda is a 100 percent green energy island.
At this point, we need to once again lobby for a more aggressive policy on the adoption of green energy in Antigua and Barbuda. The current policy adopted by the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) is myopic. The arguments offered by Robin Yearwood, the minister responsible for the restrictive policies that are in place, are shortsighted and need to look beyond the present APUA situation. Back in January, Melford Nicholas, minister of information, announced that Cabinet would review APUA’s unpopular net billing policy, but we have not seen any change for the better, and things continue as before.
Presently, the net billing policy limits the savings one can achieve through home solar installation. APUA sells power to the consumer at the commercial rate but credits power produced by the homeowner’s solar system at a lower rate. That policy anchors us in the past and leaves us stuck in time.
The strange thing about APUA’s interconnect policy is that it is in clear conflict with the acknowledged benefits of green energy, benefits that the Government, as a whole, seeks to take advantage of, as evidenced by the current and planned installations, including Barbuda. So why employ a policy at APUA that disadvantages the average citizen and business? Why not allow everyone to benefit from green energy and not just a few?
APUA belongs to the people, and it should not stand in the way of progress. APUA’s policies should be people-friendly, and they should be environment-friendly. The current green energy interconnection policy is neither. It is APUA-friendly and nothing more.
As we look to the future and seek to surf the silver linings to the dark clouds that affect our bit of paradise, let us free ourselves from the shackles of petroleum reliance and embrace the resources that are provided by nature. We have a long history of harvesting the water that falls from the sky. Let us also do the same with the wind and sun that swamp over our land rather than watch it all go to waste. To do otherwise seems irresponsible.

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