Barbados has been extremely successful in its embrace of solar water heating: saving millions of dollars in imported fossil fuel costs and millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, thanks to the expansion of this climate compatible technology. In this CDKN Inside Story, Seizing the sunshine - Barbados' thriving solar water heater industry, Will Bugler of Acclimatise explores the factors that encouraged Barbados' homes and businesses to establish and expand their use of solar water heating – and the lessons for other small, fossil fuel-dependent countries.
For the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, renewable energy technologies (RETs) will become increasingly important in the face of high fossil fuel costs. Many countries now recognise the need to move towards low-carbon, climate resilient economies, as set out in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) implementation plan for climate change-resilient development. Many nations rely heavily on imported fossil fuels, spending an ever-larger proportion of their GDP on energy imports. Along with air conditioning, refrigeration and transportation, water heating is one of the most energy-intensive domestic activities, using roughly 2 MWh of energy per household per year. Fortunately, the islands have access to one source of energy that is not in short supply, receiving over 3,000 hours of sunshine in a year. Barbados has capitalised on this, replacing gas and electric water heaters with solar water heaters (SWHs) at both domestic and commercial sites.
By almost any measure Barbados’s efforts to encourage the widespread adoption of SWH technology has been a success. The island’s 200,000 inhabitants now boast more than 50,000 SWH installations and save over 100,000 MWh of energy per year. However, other countries in the Caribbean region have not achieved the same market penetration, with many still heavily dependent on fossil fuels for water heating. In 2001 Barbados alone accounted for more than 60% of the SWHs in the Caribbean region and was responsible for about 80% of manufacturing.