Yesterday however, the Director of Sustainable Development said Cabinet is ready to approve up to 150 comprehensive measures in as little as three weeks.

Erica Smith told The Royal Gazette: “We are now revising the final draft Sustainable Development Strategy and will place it before Cabinet later this month. Hopefully then Cabinet will feel it is good to go.”

The timing is critical, as the price of an imported barrel of oil has now reached $96 — a rise of almost 50 percent since $68 in January.

The cost of living increased 1.4 percent from April to May, taking inflation to 4.5 percent — higher than the UK, US and Canada. Residents and businesses are already feeling the pinch through a 17 percent rise in their electricity bills.

Last year, the Government opened up public consultation on the Island’s reliance on imported oil with the Sustainable Development Strategy and Implementation Plan.

In ‘Charting Our Course: Sustaining Bermuda’ it states: “Our size and relative isolation makes us uniquely vulnerable to changes in the global economy and uniquely strong in being able to adapt quickly.”

However Andrew Vaucrosson, vice president of environmental campaign group Greenrock, said Ministers were not adapting quickly enough. “Bermuda really needs to wake up and realise our dependency on fossil fuels has caught up with us,” he said.

“It is making the cost of living very expensive. Then there is the issue of global warming.

“Greenrock is a strong advocate of sustainable development. Bermuda has always been fortunate enough to not feel the economic impact of our consumption, but this inflation index is a clear indicator that things are not likely to improve.

“Electricity bills have increased dramatically over the last few years and that trend will continue with our dependence on fossil fuels. If the Government implements the Sustainable Development Strategy we’ll be in a good position, but at the moment it seems as if nothing is being done.”

Greenrock held a ‘green’ festival last month powered by biodiesel and which offered an electric scooter as a raffle prize.

On the organisation’s website (www.greenrock.org) it gives residents tips on how to reduce energy usage, such as through using low voltage bulbs and water heater timers.

Mr. Vaucrosson said that since purchasing an escooter four months ago, his fuel costs have dropped from $13 a week to zero.

“These scooters have a low voltage recharger which draws the same power as your computer, so that’s quite a low wattage,” he said.

But he said more action was needed by Government to encourage consumers to use eco-friendly products.

“We need to re-look at our customs and tariff rates and introduce lower duties for imported energy efficient goods,” he said.

Mr. Vaucrosson said a member of the public had wanted to install solar water heating panels but found that only the panels were duty free.

“If someone is looking at alternative ways of getting energy in their home, then they should be able to bring in a kit which is duty free. At the moment there don’t seem to be any clear guidelines at Customs. Importers and consumers need an incentive.

“We also need to look at how we can encourage greener technologies. We need to see more active pressure on Belco to look at alternatives. I don’t think the Government is being proactive enough at the moment.”

He described the Sustainable Development Strategy as a “crucial document”.

“Greenrock’s goal is to keep the focus on this document and keep this current Government and any future one accountable to it” he said.

“The Government spent hundreds of thousands of dollars compiling it and showcasing it to the public. What is missing right now is transparency and a follow-up commentary.”

Yesterday however, the Director of Sustainable Development told The Royal Gazette <$>that the Government was about to put its words into action.

“This Government is absolutely committed to the Sustainable Development Strategy,” said Mrs. Smith.

“Cabinet has been committed to the proposed actions in the plan. A third of them have already been addressed or are being addressed.”

She highlighted the establishment of the Economic Empowerment Zone in north Hamilton as an example, and said she was “confident” all the 150 proposed measures would gain approval.

Mrs. Smith said: “We have also been working with Belco to address these issues, and have been talking about how we can work in partnership to develop an alternative energy for Bermuda. But this has been written as a five year strategy and so is a much longer term policy.

“I therefore feel the public needs to stay tuned, as there will be some very innovative things happening in the near future.

“It is a concern that we have a finite resource of oil and also, the impact of these fossil fuels on the environment. This is an area which does need to be highlighted in Bermuda, but I feel confident that these issues will be addressed over the next five years.”

She said: “The Strategy will cover everything from solar panels to building strategies but some some things will be implemented faster than others.

“Belco is also working on its own strategies for the future. I think Bermuda is ideally placed to take advantage of alternative energy sources. The fact that we are sunny for most of the year is an option to explore and we should also reconsider Belco’s strategy on wind turbines.”

Belco — the Island’s energy provider — used nearly one million barrels of oil in 2004. The company’s senior vice president Andrew Parsons was off Island last night and unavailable for comment.

However, this year’s annual report discusses alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines.

It states: “Over time, these small-scale renewable energy sources have great potential to reduce demand on the Island’s electricity system, while also increasing self-sufficiency and sustainability.”

In January, Belco began a public consultation on alternative energy with a telephone survey. Last year it also signed an agreement with Current to Current Bermuda Ltd to purchase up to 20 megawatts of power with the world’s first underwater power generator. Situated off the south coast, this would harness the ocean’s currents to provide at least ten percent of the Island’s electricity.

However, Stuart Hayward, chairman of Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), said: “One difficulty is that Bermuda’s energy policy is being decided almost entirely by Belco, which is then expected to merge its private, corporate agenda with the varied needs of the community.

“In those areas where the interests of Belco shareholders and those of the larger community merge, we are generally well served by the company. Where the interests diverge, it is less likely that community interests will get priority.

“Our Government could do much more to practice and encourage energy conservation and provide incentives for renewable energy sources.”

Government urged to stop reliance on oil

About Greenrock

According to The Footprint Network, which measures the ability of the planet to produce resources and absorb waste, our resource use and waste production is 60% more than the earth can produce or absorb annually.

This overshoot is the result of decisions that we each make every day. We seek to generate debate and to influence people to change their behaviour.We strive to be catalysts: Success for us is when we can Change the Mindset so that sustainable use of resources is included in decision-making for individuals, government or businesses. ... read more


Where to find Us

Suite 324, 48 Par-La-Ville Rd,
Hamilton HM11, Bermuda

Telephone: 1-441-747-ROCK (7625)
Email: info@greenrock.org
Website: www.greenrock.org