I ran into Walter Roban, Ministry of Home Affairs, right outside the first floor of the Government Administration Building. I was initially expecting to meet him in his office, where I assumed the interview would be conducted.

“Ben Winfield?” he asked, pointing a curious finger at me.

I nodded in assent. “Mr. Roban?

“That’s me.” He opened the door with a smile. “Step right in.”

A secretary leads us into a small conference room with a bucolic view of Parliament Street. Mr. Roban is approximately my height, casually dressed for the office, and comes across as a preoccupied man. That is not to say he is rude; quite the opposite. But one does receive a particular vibe from him, like a cook who has more than one pizza cooking in the oven. Back in 2021, Mr. Roban announced he had made an agreement with the international energy firm Seabased to establish an energy wave farm off the coast of Bermuda.  

“We were approached by Wendell Brown, who already had a relationship with Seabased as a local representative,” Mr. Roban clarifies. “By that point, we were already thinking about how to attract investment into our sector. We have a Blue Economy strategy, and the deployment of renewable energy is very much part of that strategy. If we were going to play our small meagre role in the effort to decarbonize energy generation globally, if we were going to ensure a clean energy future for Bermuda, then we must tap into our substantial ocean real estate.

‘We don’t have the land to deploy vast commercial-scale renewable energy initiatives. What we do have is the ocean. The United Nations and has been observing what we’re doing with Seabased, and are duplicating that technology elsewhere.”

If carried out to completion, it may provide Bermuda with all the energy resources it could ever need, even beating out solar and wind-generated assets. And yet, since then, the project has been relatively quiet.

“We’re creating a vision for the country that moves away from fossil fuel,” he explains, hands folded together on the table. “It’s very clear now that the cost of having an economy based on fossil fuel is too expensive. Here are the biggest advantages of wave technology: 1. You’re not buying fuel, and 2. You’re relying on dependable sources to obtain that energy.

‘The sun is intermittent, the wind is intermittent. Waves are not. This tech has the potential to be provide a constant power source for us all. But more importantly, we won’t be subject to the expense of fossil fuel, which costs Bermuda over a hundred million dollars on an annual basis.

‘The global effort to reduce and eliminate carbon dioxide emissions has mostly been confined to the wind and the sun. Solar and wind energy are both essential, of course, but one opportunity that hasn’t been investigated, at least not fully, is the ocean. We’re literally living on an island! There’s a gigantic amount of ocean real estate all around us! We’ve had the technological ability to take advantage of ocean energy for a long time.”

But will the wave project create more jobs for those on the island who desperately need them?

“I’m afraid I can’t go into specifics about that,” he said, “but there certainly will be local jobs created through the development of the wave park, in addition to its ongoing maintenance and management.”

And what is the expected timeline for the completion of the energy farm once approval has been given by the island’s principal electricity supplier, BELCO?

“Eighteen months,” he says. “But getting the approval is key, and it’s going to take time, just like the invention of the light switch.”

As far as environmental factors are concerned, Seabased has consulted with a variety of stakeholders such as the fishing community and other ocean users. “We’ve already worked with local scientists to develop their local impact assessment,” Mr. Roban states. “There will be ongoing consultations with other groups, particularly as more specifics of our project become more public through the regulatory process.”

‘It’s already very clear that the cost of having a fossil fuel-based economy has become too expensive. One of our goals is to stabilize the economy and bring much more manageable electricity to the average person. Here’s the advantage of having wave technology: 1. You’re not buying fuel, and 2. You’re relying on dependable sources to obtain that energy.”

Is there a specific date when Seabased hopes to have all of this in place? “We have a goal by 2035 to be a mostly decarbonized economy,” Mr. Roban affirms. Bermuda can only hope that day comes much sooner.