The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved a grant to reconstruct and rehabilitate the energy network in Barbuda. The project is being funded by the United Kingdom under its aid programme. The CDB-administered grant of GBP 2.85 million will finance the undergrounding of about half of the 16 kilometres electricity network of the island, and provide hybrid solar systems for backup power of key public buildings. About a quarter of the island’s 1000-strong population, who are still without permanent electricity, will also be reconnected.
“The works will make Barbuda’s energy network more resilient to storms and climate change and reconnect households, which have been off the grid since Hurricane Irma in 2016,” said CDB Vice-President (Operations), Monica La Bennett.
The current electricity system, which is completely reliant on the generation from imported fossil fuel, is vulnerable to severe damage from high winds. Furthermore, back-up generation for essential services, such as emergency shelters, hospitals and government offices is either non-existent or wholly dependent on fuel imports, making the island vulnerable to delays in the fuel supply chain. Moreover, since Hurricane Irma, more than 100 reconnected electricity customers are only receiving temporary power, while an additional 150 customers remain unconnected.
In the short run, the project will create jobs in construction, operation and maintenance of tools and machines. In the long run, the improved energy network is expected to accelerate the provision of electricity to businesses and households. The availability of resilient electricity infrastructure is a basic good necessary for the socioeconomic progress of households, private enterprise and the public sector. Through the provision of a stable source of power, the project will also contribute to lifting people out of poverty and lowering the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. According to estimates, the hybrid solar systems will reduce annual fuel consumption by 14,600 imperial gallons and carbon dioxide emissions by 107 tonnes.
At the social level, the reconnection programme will prioritise the most vulnerable households. “The United Kingdom is delivering support to the Barbudan people to have a more resilient power supply that is less susceptible to hurricane damage. We are pleased that our support will help the most vulnerable households, such as those receiving social assistance,” said Resident British Commissioner to Antigua and Barbuda, Lindsy Thompson.