Work on Bethesda solar energy plant to resume

The information minister said the Cabinet is hoping to have work at the solar panel farm in Bethesda resume. Work was halted after the government insisted on renegotiating.

Melford Nicholas said during yesterday’s post-Cabinet briefing that the company made a request for advance payment.

“After we had received the considerable evidence from Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) [Tuesday] and recognising the position that they were in, they were extorted and asked to go back to the negotiating table to move towards the completion of the project,” he said.

The minister added that the project remains active and the intention is to have the plant functioning.

Nicholas added that the target is to have 30 percent of all energy consumed locally be renewable energy by 2020.

“We have a strategic development goal of achieving that target by 2020, but, we believe that we can have a more aggressive approach towards that target. Prior to Hurricane Irma we had some 1,000 cable installation of renewable energy commenced in Barbuda, but that was blown away by the storm. Our intention over the next four to five years is to ensure that Barbuda’s energy consumption comes entirely from renewable resources to include wind, solar and thermal energy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lionel “Max” Hurst, the government’s chief of staff reported that Cabinet asked APUA to come up with a solution to providing consistent and reliable Internet service to the nation’s schools.

Giving one example, Hurst noted that the cost of supplying Princess Margaret School with Internet service each month would be in the range of $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

Hurst wrote that given the number of secondary schools that would be provided with fully accessible Internet services, the annual bill would exceed several million dollars.

He says Cabinet hopes that APUA will find alternative options to allow schools to have full Internet access daily.
Representatives from APUA were asked to report back to the Cabinet with proposals in two weeks.

Poor and unreliable Internet connectivity were blamed for the country’s inability to allow Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) students from taking their exams online.

Recently, Ashworth Azille, president of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers harshly criticised the education ministry about the absence of reliable Internet in schools.

Additionally, the project leader for the “Computers for the World” initiative, a partnership of the Rotary Club of Antigua, the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club of Washington State and the Mill Reef Fund, said poor Internet connectivity in schools could halt the programme.

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