Barbados is a vocal leader in the climate change agenda on the global stage and, most importantly, it is also walking the talk and starting to benefit from the results of its green growth commitments. The country is devoted to driving its economic recovery through development that is inclusive and sustainable. In this context, accelerating investments in electromobility is proving key for its business case.
The IDB, through the Electromobility Platform, is actively supporting Latin American and Caribbean countries. The Bank seeks to promote the transition to electric mobility, overcome current barriers and unlock the opportunities and benefits of technological adoption by mobilizing technical assistance and investments, supporting 69 activities in 20 countries. Barbados is quickly becoming a success story for these initiatives.
Electric buses: driving Barbados to savings and sustainability
In a recent presentation to the Parliament, the Barbados Transport Board’s Chief Executive Officer reported that since 2020, the Government of Barbados had made investments totaling US$22.5 million for the acquisition of 49 electric buses, two of which were co-financed by the IDB and the European Union through the Public Sector Smart Energy Program (PSSEP). It was highlighted that the new electric fleet and charging facilities have been synonymous with significant savings in bus operation and maintenance costs.
Maintenance costs falling from US$7.5 million in 2019 to US$3 million in 2021 underscore the value added in this capital investment, and these savings are further improved when taking into consideration the reduction in fuel costs, which in 2020 represented US$4.1 million and decreased to US$2.8 million in 2021 when combining diesel and electricity costs. Additional savings can also be expected in the future, considering that Covid-19 restrictions on passenger numbers resulted in the Transport Board using diesel buses longer than anticipated, since they had a larger carrying capacity.
According to a study developed by the Ministry of Energy and Business Development, electric buses currently in operation account for between 49% and 70% of the available fleet serving Barbadian roads for public transport. In addition to contributing towards a zero-emission pathway for the country, these buses offer a more modern and convenient public transportation experience to Barbadians with features such as Wi-Fi connectivity, air-conditioning, wheelchair access ramps and USB charging ports.
If all goes according to plan, the Transport Board will acquire 10 additional electric buses during 2022, which will increase the share of electric vehicles in public transportation to about 85% of the fleet in service. Of course, increasing the use of electric vehicles is a key part of this transition. Through its clean transportation strategies, the Government has identified its vulnerability but also the need to address its reliance on carbon-intensive vehicles. Since April 2021, the public procurement policy is to prioritize the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles, where possible. Currently, the government-owned vehicle fleet includes 11 electric cars and vans (or about 1% of the total government fleet) and 39 EV buses.
Greening transportation beyond purchasing electric vehicles
The Transport Board is also looking at ways to reduce its electricity bill and green its service provision by installing solar photovoltaic systems, which will not only directly offset its electricity costs, but will also reduce fleet emissions, as the island still relies on an energy matrix that is over 95% fossil-fuel dependent.
In addition, the Government of Barbados has advanced with the development of policies, strategies, and studies to reach their goal of carbon neutrality by year 2030. These include the Physical Development Plan, the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan for the Greater Bridgetown Area and the Urban Corridor, which have been key strategies to set guidelines to foster further electromobility investments. Since 2012, the Ministry of Energy and Business Development has been executing activities financed through the PSSEP and more recently, with the approval of the Sustainable Energy Investment (Smart Fund II) program, in which public vehicles, charging infrastructure deployment and policy development has started to set favorable conditions for electromobility in the country.
Nonetheless, an overarching framework for electromobility is still needed to make the transition that ensures feasible low-carbon and resilient transportation measures and the regulatory, financial, and behavioral changes required for a green mobility system in Barbados. This will call for consideration of fleet renovation directives, payment systems, charging infrastructure deployment, change-out plans, tracking systems, waste and demand management, bicycle lanes, connected sidewalks and accessibility measures, as well as parking management.
As Barbados continues to pursue a holistic approach for sustainability and advances the mainstreaming of the climate commitments set in its updated NDC, showcasing the benefits from key green milestones helps strengthen their business case to continue pursuing green growth.