Forget baby steps … think BIG and jump!

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Recently, we tackled the issue of renewable energy and the government’s policies that hinder aggressive adoption by the masses. In response, we were told, by some, that we do not know what we are talking about. Certain persons, toeing the APUA line, were quick to tell us that our thinking was skewed and we were pushing an agenda that would only benefit the rich – since, apparently, they are the only persons who could afford alternative energy, such as solar.
We are happy for the criticism, since it, once again, demonstrates that people care. But we stick to our passionate desire to see more aggressive policy from the government and the public utilities company. We make no apologies for wanting to democratise energy production and put as much power in the hands of the people. (No pun intended).
It seems that the use of the terminology “energy democratisation” is offensive in many quarters. The basic concept of democracy should not be fearful to anyone, save and except, those who yearn for power and control. In the case of energy democratisation, it simply means that there is a shift of power production from being in the hands of the big monopoly utilities to the hands of the ordinary man or woman and private businesses. And it is that shift that has people worried because it is also a shift of power and control.
We have heard and understand all the arguments for centralised renewable energy production plants but those arguments have nothing to do with the democratisation of energy production. Centralised production plants makes sense but that does not mean that the physical and logistical elements eliminate the push for democratisation.
To understand this, one needs to only examine the concept of community or shared use of solar energy. It runs somewhat like a cooperative. Persons desirous of installing solar equipment but do not want to install it on their roofs, can utilise a shared facility that manages the installation. Some people may have 10 panels and some hundreds. Energy democratisation is achieved. Central plant installation is achieved. And better energy management is achieved. But even that is a baby step to the future.
The real potential actually lies with APUA as the middle-man in the management of democratised energy production. Instead of seeing the issue that “solar is only produced during the day” as a problem, see it as an opportunity. An opportunity to store the energy that is overproduced by solar producers and sell it back to them later – rather than generating the additional power during non-sun hours.
What we are proposing is not easy but we should rush to the opportunity rather than shy away from it. Look at the deal struck between Tesla and South Australia. Elon Musk has famously ‘put his money where his mouth is’. He has offered to build the world’s largest lithium ion battery in the world in 100 days or it will be free of cost to the government. We are talking about a 129 megawatt hour (MWh) battery – enough to power over 30,000 homes.  
And to give you an idea of cost, in July, Musk said the cost to Tesla would be “$50 million or more” if the company failed to deliver on time. Sure, its purpose is slightly different than what we have been discussing but not too far off.
Now, we know that there will be the same voices stating that we know nothing about engineering smart grids and energy distribution, etc., but we never claimed that we did. What we are saying is that there must be a better way that creates a win-win for our bit of paradise.
Just review the statistics given by Molwyn Joseph, minister of health, as he backpedalled in relation to his participation in the electric car study. According to the minister, Antigua and Barbuda spent about $220 million on the generation of electricity and transportation in 2016. The private sector alone spent approximately $153 million. The government spent $10 million to purchase gasoline and diesel for vehicles. And APUA spent $60 million on bunker C fuel and diesel for its generators. That is a lot of money!  
It is for financial reasons like those (and many others) that we agree with Minister Joseph that we must do more in terms of weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels. But we think that the opportunity is greater if we think BIG!
We are anchoring ourselves in the past – in what we know is comfortable. We see APUA more as a producer rather than a facilitator because that suits the political purpose and it is what we have always done. But if we are serious about change and leading the charge in renewable energies, we must think differently about APUA and how it services the population.  
As we are wont to do, we will go to the extremes and propose a future where APUA facilitates the buying, selling and storage of energy and has little to do with production. A future where energy production is financed by private individuals and businesses. A future with policies that accommodate the less fortunate by mandating and managing overproduction. A future freed of the global price fluctuations in a commodity that is outside of our control. It may be ambitious but it is a future that is achievable if we are willing to embrace change.

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