Environment

Government eyes electric bus fleet

  • Home affairs minister Walter Roban (File photograph)

The feasibility of converting Bermuda’s bus fleet to electric vehicles will be explored under a new partnership announced yesterday.

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said that a memorandum of understanding signed with the Rocky Mountain Institute demonstrated the Government’s commitment to a “cleaner, sustainable energy future”.

He added that the MOU signified the start of the Energy Transition Project, which “seeks to fully transition Bermuda’s transportation sector and diversify electricity generation options”.

Mr Roban was speaking after he and Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, signed the MOU with the United States-based sustainability organisation. He added that the work performed by the non-profit out of Boulder, Colorado, would come at no cost to the Government.

Mr Roban said: “They raise the funds for their projects outside of the government circle.

“We’re getting top, international-class research, development and advice with no pressure on the government purse.”

A government spokeswoman said the agreement covers two projects; the first will focus on developing a strategy for transitioning to an electric bus fleet “that will lay the groundwork for a full transition of the transportation sector to electric vehicles”.

She added: “The second project will identify and prioritise renewable energy projects and look for ways to build a more resilient grid.”

Justin Locke, director of the islands energy programme at RMI, was on hand for the MOU signing.

Mr Locke said that studies would be carried out over the next nine months to a year, with implementation of the plan taking place in year two.

He said the studies would look at suitable sites for solar PV and battery storage in Bermuda.

Mr Locke added: “Once we have completed this analysis, we plan to support the Government and Regulatory Authority in publishing a tender for an integrated solar PV and battery storage project that will likely include several aggregated sites.

“In addition, we will work with the Department of Transportation to access the viability of transitioning the public bus fleet to electric buses, that will pave the way to electrify the entire transportation system.”

Mr Locke said the island’s dependence on fossil fuels had “led to a high degree of vulnerability to economic shock”.

He added: “This reliance on fossil fuels has directly led to a higher cost of doing business — and more importantly — a higher cost of living for Bermuda and its citizens, which has exacerbated the economic gap between rich and poor, as well as made Bermuda less competitive in the global economy.”

Mr Locke said that Bermuda had the opportunity to set the “global gold standard” on energy transition.

He explained: “With declining costs of renewable energy, and the clear economics around electrification of the transport sector, Bermuda can reinvent itself by transitioning to a lower cost, more reliable and cleaner electricity system, making Bermuda a more attractive place to invest, to visit, and most importantly, to live.”

Mr Roban said that the Government was also “quite committed” to transitioning to electrifying private transportation on the island, including the government fleet. He added that informal discussions had taken place with automotive dealerships about having more electric and hybrid vehicles in the Bermuda’s marketplace.

Mr DeSilva said that gas-powered buses would continue to be imported as the feasibility of electric buses was studied.

He added: “After that feasibility study is done, then we will decide on which way [to go] forward.”