Bermuda Post

Friday, Dec 04, 2020

Press conference on Economic Recovery Initiatives by the Ministry of Home Affairs

Minister Roban Press Conference Remarks on Economic Recovery Initiatives in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Good Afternoon.

I am pleased to report to you on initiatives within the Ministry of Home Affairs that are expected to attract investors both internationally and locally and provide jobs for Bermudians.

Most of you would not equate the Ministry of Home Affairs as a Ministry that would create private jobs and industries. We are normally associated with controls and oversight.

Indeed, to some misinformed detractors, the Departments in my Ministry represent impediments to progress. I totally refute that notion and am excited to inform you that we represent one of the number of paths to the rebuilding of our economy. I am proud to highlight initiatives initiated and overseen by the Departments of Energy, Planning, Environment and Natural Resources and the Regulatory Authority (RA). It should be noted that on more than one of these initiatives, the

Departments partnered with the RA. On more than one occasion, these Departments worked as a team with each other and other Government Ministries.

I would first start with Energy. You may be aware that renewable energy solutions are near and dear to my heart, whether it is the installation of renewable energy or electric vehicles. I have repeatedly stated that renewable energy is our future as fossil fuels will become part of our past. Not only is the adoption of renewable energy in our future, but it will also attract investment and new jobs. In fact there has already been interested investors, both from overseas and locally that have approached us with proposals to introduce a variety of renewable energy technologies. While the procurement of such technologies is the purview of the Regulatory Authority, we must prepare our people to participate in this lucrative industry. Therefore we will soon be rolling out the following initiatives:

We will soon be introducing training for Level 1 solar installers, giving priority to those who have lost their jobs and are looking for new opportunities. We have had meetings with instructors at the Bermuda College to map out specifically how this can be done. As soon as is practical, we will roll out the training in conjunction to ensure that up to twenty students who wish to become solar installers are trained, ready and able to complete solar photovoltaic installations. We say, ‘as soon as is practical’ because those trainers will be coming in from overseas, and we need to ensure their safety and ours.
We are also introducing the “Competent Persons Scheme”, initially for solar installers, and is being developed by the Departments of Energy and Planning. This scheme will allow persons to benefit from a fast-tracked and abbreviated planning process once they have been certified as competent persons, i.e. they can be trusted to adhere to the planning rules and building code for installation.

We will be continuing the rebate programme for purchasers of solar systems to assist those who would not normally be able to afford to install solar solutions. Thus far, in the recent ‘reboot’ of the 2010 programme, we have provided about $320,000 for installations since 2018. This covers more than 50 installations and over 230 kilowatts of energy. What we have found is that many people are installing more than the rebated amount – which allows them even more freedom from fossil fuels, and contributes to all of our energy independence.

The introduction of a Green Energy and Environmental Justice Fund which will encourage local and overseas investors to provide investment to provide funding for:

installing solar for residential homes and small businesses;
providing additional training to develop solar installers and energy managers;
providing the initial investment for entrepreneurs who are looking to enter the renewable installers or energy management business.

We will tabling legislation to introduce a Regulatory Authority Sandbox.

Currently, the RA can only issue licences to utilities with proven commercial technology, like solar, wind, etc. This is an exciting initiative which will allow developers of new technology to build and test their technology in Bermuda. We have already been meeting with developers who are interested in testing their technology, mainly in our oceans. Any such developments would require persons on island to help with developing the sites and installing the equipment. And, none of this could be proceeding as smoothly without our work with the Waitt Institute and the development of the Bermuda Ocean Prosperity Programme, spearheaded by another department in this Ministry, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

All such initiatives are reviewed by a team of Officers from the RA, and Departments of Marine and Ports, Estates Energy, Planning and Environment and Natural Resources.

Incidentally, this same team of Officers together with the Bermuda Business Development Agency were also involved in the development of the Submarine Communication Cables Act 2020. This legislation has started to bear fruit as there have been, at least, 4 enquiries from internationally renowned companies expressing serious interest in laying cables in our territorial waters and will not only earn the Government hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees but establish Bermuda as the only North Atlantic hub for communication cables. This could in turn entice some of these companies to domicile in Bermuda, which would bring in much-needed inward investment in many sectors.

Last but not least, I would like to highlight the work done by the Department of Planning. It is important to emphasize that approvals from this Department translate into investment and jobs for architects, construction personnel (i.e. masons, laborers, carpenters, tilers, electricians, plumbers etc.), engineers, surveyors, conveyancing lawyers, realtors, landscapers and installers of renewable energy. Since March of this year, 542 building permits have been issued by the Department of Planning. These permits cover both new builds, renovation works and renewable energy systems. As a snapshot, for the month of September alone, 61 new residential permits were issued resulting in approximately $11.6 million of potential construction contracts. The 15 commercial building permits that were issued in September result in approximately $31.7 million being injected into the economy as potential construction contracts.

We have introduced:

A Scheme of Delegation which has enabled the Development Applications Board (DAB) to delegate decision making powers to the Director, reducing the number of applications going to the Development Application Board (DAB) by 80%. This process has allowed for planning approvals to be granted more efficiently.

Holding virtual DAB meetings so that decision making on new developments was not disrupted during the period of ‘shelter in place’ stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The use of Energov that not only allows for electronic submissions but also allows the applicant to track the progression of his or her application and the public to be alerted when there are new applications and interested persons can view the application on-line.

As a result of this streamlining of their processes, the Department has exceeded the normal 10-week turnaround from the receipt of planning applications to the approvals. It should be noted that because of these innovations, the Department was able to continue to process applications through the period of “shelter-in- place” regulations resulting from the COVID pandemic earlier this year. The Department redirected its resources to process as many applications as possible during this period to support the construction industry getting back to work when the shelter in place period ended.

Some other exciting news that demonstrates that there continues to be investment in our economy include:

a) The Riddell’s Bay Development has already sold 6 lots representing one third of their total lots available for sale. Three of these lots are already undergoing the architectural design phase for imminent submission to the Department of Planning.

b) We have observed an uptick in the number of planning searches being submitted to the Department of Planning. This is a strong indication that real estate sales are increasing which ultimately demonstrates confidence in Bermuda’s market. This has also been reported by developers in the news last week.

In conclusion, these initiatives demonstrate that the Ministry of Home Affairs continues to encourage investment and increase jobs.

Thank you.
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