Barbados is looking to adopt the Norwegian model of managing its oil and gas sector, with Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for energy Senator Darcy Boyce arguing the Scandinavian country’s method was a sustainable way of doing things.
“They have pressed with their energy efficiency, they have pressed ahead with their renewable energy, particularly wind, but they’ve put their production of oil and gas, most of it into heritage funds, stabilization funds, so as to be able to draw upon those when they need to, and also to use those resources for developing other parts of the economy,” Boyce told the Senate Wednesday during debate on the Offshore Petroleum (Amendment) Bill 2017.
“We want to put ourselves in that same position. But we can only get there if we right now do the things that are important to reduce our use of energy and also generate energy from other sources, and therefore that is what we are doing.”
The Government’s spokesman on energy said the country would seek to shield itself from the impacts of fluctuations on the global oil market by proceeding with plans for offshore oil explorations, stressing that recent finds in Guyana and neighbouring Trinidad had raised the Freundel Stuart administration’s expectation that Barbados would also reap success in its own explorations.
At the same time, Boyce made it clear Barbados ought not become heavily reliant on oil and gas.
“Economies that have built themselves around oil and gas to the detriment of everything else have found themselves in considerable difficulty when the price of oil drops, and our neighbour to the south [Trinidad] has found itself in that situation,” he told the Senate, adding that wages were high in oil-based economies, and “you don’t want it to go to a stage where other non-oil businesses actually fail because the wages are too high”.
He pledged Government’s commitment to improving energy efficiency, including greater use of the sun, wind and biomass to generate electricity.
Under the amended legislation, Government will extend the period of time between the award of a licence and the submission of an environmental impact assessment by the awardee to the Minister of the Environment from 90 days to nine months. The awardee will also be required to relinquish no less than 25 per cent of the licence area in the first phases.
A third amendment states that where a licensee seeks to change control, it has to present the matter to Government for consideration and approval.
Boyce stated that Government had already awarded licences to the multinational mining, minerals and petroleum company, BHP Billiton, and Madrid-based integrated global energy company, Repsol.
The licence to BHP Billiton, was awarded in 2015, and the company has submitted a first draft of an environmental impact assessment.
“That first draft is being studied by our people, we have submitted to the Commonwealth Secretariat, had help from them, and we have submitted to that company some requests for additional work to be done on the environmental impact assessment,” the senator said.