Rules more advantageous to BPL than consumer say RE providers
NASSAU, BAHAMAS- The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) proposed guidelines for Renewable Energy Self-Generation (RESG) projects is being blasted by renewal energy providers as a disincentive to consumers.
The Sustainable Energy Association of The Bahamas (SEAB) said in a statement yesterday said guidelines issued last week were more advantageous to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL).
URCA established the Small Scale Renewable Generation (SSRG) program in 2017 for residential and limited small-business customers in renewable energy generation.
Last week, the regulator issued proposed guidelines for the approval and encouragement of RESG projects advanced by the Government, and for the expansion of the RESG projects that may be advanced by small-scale business or commercial enterprises in The Bahamas.
Feedback on the document must be submitted to URCA on or before 5 pm October 28th.
“The current proposed legislation changes will increase the unfairness of the rules towards Bahamian Businesses who want to “go solar”, be harmful to the solar industry businesses and set us backwards as a nation,” read the SEAB statement.
“It is SEAB’s position that the proposed legislation is extremely harmful and detrimental to the Bahamian Solar Industry and their solar customers.
The statement read: “It is the worst imaginable legislation for medium and large size businesses wanting to lower their electricity costs with a solar system connected to the BPL grid. It is predicated on the existing utility structure with a continuation of the existing monopolistic governmental supply of electricity to the public and governmental control of pricing, inspections and approvals.
“It will create a win-lose deal between the government utility, Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) and Bahamian businesses. BPL will have the greater advantage and businesses will not be incentivized to “sign on” to the RESG projects as they would not be economically viable under the proposed program rules.”
According to the SEAB, the proposed rules will also result in less revenues for solar companies because it will eliminate a potential solar market within medium to large businesses.
“It will result in less subcontracting from the solar companies to construction and electrical companies. It will result in decreased job openings in the solar industry, because it will decrease the number of projects available to work on. It will prevent local or foreign direct investment for medium sized solar systems on businesses in the Bahamas.”
The SEAB noted that URCA is proposing a “Buy All, Sell All” legislation which will make it illegal for businesses to self-consume the solar energy that they produce.
The statement read: “Businesses will be forced to sell all of their solar energy to BPL at an “avoided cost”. All solar electricity produced from private solar systems in the 100KW to 1MW range will be required to be sold to BPL and not allowed to be self-consumed by the business, at a rate that URCA determines. URCA is proposing to install two meters on a business and make the businesses pay for the cost of the second BPL Meter.
“The second meter will go on the solar system so the Utility can reduce the value of the solar generated electricity, with URCAs approval as a means of “leveling the playing field”, so the BPL utility does not “lose money” from solar customers,” the SEAB statement read.
Guilden Gilbert, vice-president of Alternative Power Sources told Eyewitness News, that URCA’s position is confusing.
“To us it appears that the interconnection method is more beneficial to BPL than to the RESG system owner,” Gilbert said.
“What is being proposed is concerning as most persons who install systems, from our experience, are doing so to be able to independently power their homes during the day and purchase from BPL at night or to independently power their homes through the night using battery-based systems (the vast majority of installations).
“My understanding is that URCA, as the regulator is charged with the protection of the customer, the end user, not the utility, this method does not appear to protecting the consumer.”
Gilbert said that based on what is being proposed, URCA appears desirous of protecting BPL.
“Is it not incumbent on the utility to manage its own economic affairs? Why is this now being placed on the consumer? If a consumer already has a BPL connection how is that consumer economically impacting BPL, except that the demand from BPL from that customer can be reduced, with the installation of an RESG system? The only thing that happens is that BPL has a reduced revenue stream from that consumer,” Gilbert said.
“The demand is reduced because very few consumers will actually be able to get to a state of being completely off-grid, either due to cost or the lack of available roof or yard space for the installation of PV panels.
Gilbert said: “There is nothing extra BPL needs to do to get power to the consumer. If the owner of the RESG must export every kw produced from the system and cannot use anything from it for private consumption how is BPL to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels? How do this policy tie into the National Energy Policy? Shouldn’t BPL be happy to receive the excess power from RESG systems while that system is also providing power to the residence? Is this not a better method to reduce consumption and by extension the demand for fossil fuels?”
“The goal seems to be to dissuade persons from installing an RESG system, if that is not the case perhaps URCA would be willing to explain the methodology behind this policy of Buy All, Sell All,” Gilbert said.
“What this is saying is that the RESG owner is nothing more than an Independent Power Producer (IPP) as the only rationale for the system is to export power to BPL.
“Further,” Gilbert added, “will URCA stipulate when the payment from the exported kw be paid? Will they stipulate that just as consumers are billed monthly and expected to settle their accounts monthly that the proceeds from the sale of this power will also be paid monthly?”