Throne Speech Initiatives 2021 - Minister of Home Affairs Remarks

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Good day to members of the media and the listening public. Thank you for your attendance and for watching this Press Conference.

Following the November 5th Speech from the Throne, I would like to update last year's initiatives and highlight how the Ministry of Home Affairs plans to introduce a Marine Development Act and a Bill to facilitate the development and testing of renewable energy technologies in Bermuda. 

Last year's Speech from the Throne was focused on four initiatives, the Consumer Protections for Loans and Mortgages, the Subsea Cable Fees Regime, Modernising Landlord/Tenant Legislation, and Training for Level 1 Solar Installers.

Consumer Protections for Loans and Mortgages 

Concerning the conduct towards customers in the case of consumer protections for loans and mortgages, I can advise that this responsibilitywill now be with the Bermuda Monetary Authority. Consumer Affairs will continue to respond to customer complaints about banking conduct.

Subsea Cable Regime

I am pleased to inform the public that the Submarine Communications Cables Act 2020was passed and is now operative. The application process has also been published and is under the purview of the Regulatory Authority.

Modernising Landlord/Tenant Legislation

On modernising the landlord and tenant legislation, the public will know that since the 1990s, the rental market has changed significantly. In contrast, however, the legislation has not been kept current with those changes. 

As in most jurisdictions, disputes between landlords and tenants have increased, and legislation is needed to address these issues and provide adequate guidance and protection to landlords and tenants. 

During the last year, the economic impact suffered by residents has highlighted the ambiguity in the current Acts and the need for updated legislation. A more comprehensive Act will enable Consumer Affairs to better assist landlords and tenants by giving clear guidance on settling rental disputes and potentially avoiding civil court. Responsibility for enforcement of the two Acts currently falls to the Courts. Hence, landlords and tenants have little option but to resort to the courts to settle disputes because of a lack of clear direction from the Acts. The court process can be long, is generally not user friendly, and can prove to be expensive with no guarantee of a positive outcome. 

The updated Act will introduce emergency enforcement powers for Consumer Affairs, who can now only do their best to conciliate issues that arise but cannot enforce remedies. 

Despite this, most landlords and tenants have been fair and respectful in their relationships with one another. However, there have been instances where some landlords have committed heinous acts, such as :

• Shutting off access to water and electricity;

• The removing of windows and doors as a way to force tenants to leave; and

• Putting a tenant's belongings out of the rental premises.

Likewise, some tenants have indulged in illegal activities or engaged in intimidation against elderly landlords. These occurrences require immediate intervention by an authority where there have been contraventions of the legislation.

Approvals are being sought by Cabinet, after which the drafting of the legislation will occur.

Training for Level 1 Solar Installers 

The public will recall the goals proposed by the Regulatory Authority's Integrated Resource Plan or IRP are a roadmap to all future utility-scale energy developments. The only way Bermuda will meet its goals and share the prosperity of a self-sufficient energy future is by investing now in the local talent pool who will be vital in achieving our goals.

To that end, the public will recall my excitement on July 7th, when I introduced the free Solar Photovoltaic or PV Certification Training Programme, held in partnership with Connectech. And later that month, I congratulated the twenty students who completed the training. 

During the application phase of the Solar Photovoltaic or PV Certification Training Programme, we recognised that many who applied for the programme did not have electrical and construction experience. With that experience being essential for the course, many were unable to be accepted into the programme. As an alternative, the Ministry of Home Affairs through the Department of Energy undertook an initiative with the Construction Association of Bermuda to offer a course of study through NCCER, the National Center for Construction Education and Research. 

While initially planned to begin this fall, COVID related challenges have required the course start date to be early in the New Year. Despite this minor setback, I can confidently say that we are on our way to ensuring that Bermuda will have a qualified and capable pool of workers to meet our needs.

2021 Speech from the Throne

As stated in the 2021 Speech from the Throne and in line with Bermuda's Economic Recovery Plan, the Ministry of Home Affairs will focus its efforts on introducing a Marine Development Act and a Bill to facilitate the development and testing of renewable energy technology in Bermuda. 

Marine Development Act

Before expanding on the Marine Development Act, I would like to begin with what I feel is a most thoughtful and revealing quote, 

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." 

With that in mind, the Marine Development Act will include a marine spatial plan identifying the 20% protected area of Bermuda's Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ. The Act will also create a framework to balance development and sustainability, providing an application process for investments in fishing, offshore renewable energy and "blue tourism". The process will guide ocean use management across the EEZ, drawing on local expertise and utilising an environmental impact procedure akin to the Bermuda Plan for land development.

This is a timely initiative in light of the COP26 conference.

Bermuda's unique marine environment and maritime cultural heritage define us as an island nation. Well-known traditional maritime activities include shipping, fishing, marine tourism, boating, swimming, diving, and snorkelling. However, there are also new opportunities for marine dependent commercial operations. These include fishing, offshore renewable energy and "blue tourism" in addition to mariculture, more commonly known as fish farming, that could contribute to job creation, economic diversification and food security. 

Any development in the marine environment must be sustainable and not jeopardise the ocean and coastal areas environmental services provided for the island, such as coastal protection, removing carbon from the atmosphere, waste disposal, and its intrinsic value. The recommendation to ensure sustainability while managing the overlapping and evolving needs of different ocean user groups and stakeholders is to develop a coherent "blue economy" plan to direct long-term management and economic growth.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines Marine Spatial Plan or MSP, as "a public process of analysing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives that are usually specified through a political process". 

MSP adds planning and public consultation elements to ecosystem management, producing an overarching system of sea use management. Its fundamental tenet is to develop a transparent process to allow sustainable multiple uses of the marine environment, with minimal user conflict, achieved through stakeholder input. Regular reviews will enable the system to accommodate new maritime activities or adapt to changes such as those brought about by climate change or other consequences of large scale human development. An important consideration is integrating the management of the coastal zone to take account of the impacts of land-based activities on the marine environment, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the current Bermuda Plan 2008.

The Marine Spatial Plan will be managed similar to the Department of Planning's "Bermuda Plan. That is, to conserve protected areas while encouraging development in others.

You will often hear the refrain that for all our plans to protect, we do not have the resources to manage and enforce these protections. I am pleased to advise the public that this is about to end. You would have heard the press release that Bermuda is the first overseas territory to join the UK Blue Shield program.

The Blue Shield Programme will identify and analyse activities within our EEZ that may impact the health and sustainability of these biodiverse marine environments. It will provide a complete picture of maritime activities to Territories, which will allow improved management of their waters. 

The activities surveyed could include:

• Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing;

• Commercial and recreational vessel activity;

• Shipping activity;

Through establishing compliance and enforcement frameworks, Blue Shield will actively monitor activities, assisting us to ensure environmental regulations are met and, where necessary, help us with enforcement by taking action against non-compliance. 

Our Blue Shield initiative will be supported through specialist staff training to build local capacity and access innovative surveillance and enforcement techniques. These include:

• Autonomous drone technology that can monitor vast ocean areas for human activity and report findings in real-time; and 

• Passive acoustic units, which once deployed underwater, can monitor the sounds of vessels that have their GPS positioning systems turned off.

Furthermore, the latest satellite surveillance data can also be used to monitor maritime activity across our entire Exclusive Economic Zones.

Renewable Energy Technology Development Bill

Also, during this session and as part of Bermuda's Economic Recovery Plan, the Government will introduce a Bill to facilitate the developers of renewable energy technology testing their products in Bermuda. 

This legislation will lay the groundwork for additional investment in Bermuda, whose innovation can reduce the cost of electricity for local consumers. Concerning this, new regulations will address the fuel surcharge cost for electricity and better regulate the storage and distribution of fuel to reduce energy costs for Bermuda's residents and businesses. 

The public will know that long before the effects of COVID-19, this Government recognised the need to find ways of attracting both local entrepreneurs and foreign innovators to do business in Bermuda. Recent circumstances have made these efforts even more pressing and require us to change our legislative model to attract innovative entrepreneurs to our shores. Energy forms the backbone support for all other industries and is a sector ripe for development in our environment. This is especially true as we aspire to fulfil the goals of the Integrated Resource Plan. 

Recently, innovators have been seeking to develop creative solutions for electricity generation offshore in our oceans. Next week, I will have the pleasure of introducing one such developer. These solutions range from floating solar photovoltaic and floating offshore wind installations to ocean wave technologies. If proven to be operationally feasible and economically viable, these innovations could be game-changers for the future of electricity generation in Bermuda. These new initiatives will also attract investment and have the potential to create jobs.

Currently, section 42(3)(b) of Electricity Act 2016, which governs requests for comments and other generation proposals, states, 

'Any person that submits a proposal pursuant to a notice under this subsection shall in that proposal demonstrate – how it uses technology that is in commercial operation in another jurisdiction.'

By its nature, and indeed, by necessity, we currently have the policy of not adopting new generation technologies until the technology has been widely adopted commercially. Essentially, this legislation is not conducive to innovations. For Bermuda's electricity sector to evolve and usher in new forms of renewable energy, we must adopt legislation that mitigates the risks of creation but does not prevent it entirely. 

To be clear, in no way should Bermuda risk the stability of its grid, rated as one of the best in the Caribbean region. Innovators will be scrutinised to ensure their credibility as investors and meet a series of requirements before being allowed to connect to the grid. Provided the requirements are met, they will have the opportunity to give power to Bermuda. With the proper safeguards, this change in legislation may not only invite energy investors to Bermuda but also help lower the overall cost of electricity, thereby increasing our appeal to investors in other areas, such as data centres or fintech. 

Conclusion

The people of Bermuda have entrusted this Government to lead. And with the Throne Speech theme of 'Working Together to Move Bermuda Beyond the Pandemic'. 

I am confident that these initiatives, once implemented, will fulfil that goal. 

Thank you. 

 

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