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10-15% Alternative Energy Penetration Within Next Decade

RENEWABLE energies could penetrate between 10-15 per cent of Bahamian homes and businesses within the next decade, a local provider telling Tribune Business yesterday that consumers were receiving “payback” on his company’s solar water heaters in “less than a year”.

#Describing the upfront costs associated with renewable energy installation as “the big hurdle” to overcome in increasing their market penetration, Guilden Gilbert, vice-president of Alternative Power Sources (Bahamas), said weaning this nation off its total oil dependency was vital to Bahamian economic sustainability.

#Revealing to Tribune Business that discussions were already taking place among industry players about creating a Bahamas Renewable Energy Association, Mr Gilbert encouraged the Government to continue on the already-established path of supporting the transition to fossil fuel alternatives.

#Expressing a willingness to work with the incoming Progressive Liberal Party (PL) administration on achieving the renewable energy goals set out in its Charter for Governance, he added that the introduction of net metering and/or net billing would “go a long way” to support Bahamian take-up of alternatives.

#Noting that Bermuda and Jamaica were already ahead of the Bahamas on this issue, the Alternative Power Sources executive said it was vital to convert Bahamian “interest” in renewable energies into concrete action.

#“It’s difficult to say, but there’s very little penetration at this stage,” Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business on the level of alternative energy take-up in the Bahamas. “There seems to be quite a bit of interest. It’s getting persons to follow through on the interest.

#“If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that in 10 years, there will be 10-15 per cent penetration if persons commit to using the technology.”

#Alternative Power Sources specalises in the installation and maintenance of a variety of alternative energy systems, including solar water heaters, solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems and wind technologies.

#“We’ve done a couple of installations of solar PV systems,” Mr Gilbert said, adding that the last one was a 2 Kilowatt (KW) system to power the gate house for Tennyson Wells and his investors at their Lyford Hills subdivision.

#The 2KW system is powering the gate house’s lighting, refrigeration, small AC unit, the Lyford Hills gates and some surrounding lights. “The goal of the developers is to put in solar garden lights and street lights throughout the development,” Mr Gilbert added.

#Greater penetration has been achieved with Alternative Power Sources’ solar water heaters, and Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business: “The cost of supplying and installing a 53-gallon solar water heater is around $1,800.

#“A number of clients we have installed the 53-gallon for are saying they’re saving on average between $150-$200 per month, so in less than a year the heater pays for itself.”

#Urging Bahamian households and businesses not to be put off by the seemingly high installation costs associated with alternative energies, Mr Gilbert encouraged them to focus on the greater financial rewards, in terms of energy bill savings, they would enjoy down the road.

#“If someone’s spending $500-$600 a month for their utility bill, even if they were to borrow from the bank to cover the cost of the system, what they would pay back to the bank monthly could be equal to or less than their BEC costs,” he explained.

#“It’s really the customer being willing to make the investment and seeing the savings on the back end. That’s the hurdle we need to get over……. the upfront costs.” Alternative Power Sources had attempted to reduce these costs itself by establishing manufacturer-direct relationships, now having its own branded solar panels.

#Mr Gilbert added that “the payback period” on solar PV systems was “anywhere from three-six years” depending on their size. Alternative Power Sources had installed one at the All Saints Camp, and was waiting on directions to install another 32 as part of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) initiative.

#To further drive alternative energies in the Bahamas, and get a handle on how many companies and persons were working in the industry, Mr Gilbert said: “There will be a Bahamas Renewable Energy Association. Right now, four of us are sitting down and talking.”

#He declined to divulge further details, but called on the Bahamian government “to continue to support the move towards renewables.

#“I know the new government has in their manifesto a focus on renewables, and I’m assuming they’d expand on what their goals are. As an industry, we look forward to seeing what their goals are, and would like to work hand in hand with them to achieve them,” Mr Gilbert said.

#Key advances would be to provide the legislative and regulatory authority for net billing, and net metering, to take place in the Bahamas. The former would provide for BEC bills that take into account the energy produced by homeowners and businesses themselves, while the latter would account for – and credit – surplus energy sent to the BEC grid.

#Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business both these initiatives would “go a long way to supporting the growth of the industry and allow shorter payback periods for homeowners investing in PV systems”.

#Alternative Power Sources, he added, had operations in the Bahamas, Bermuda and Jamaica, and the two latter nations both have “some form of power purchasing agreement so you can tie into the grid and sell electricity back”.

#Bermuda, Mr Gilbert said, has established power purchase agreements, while Jamaica has net billing legislation.

#Further assistance for renewable energy development would come, Mr Gilbert said, if all future subdivisions were required to incorporate technologies such as solar street and garden lighting, something that would “speed up the market penetration” and also potentially reduce infrastructure costs.

#And Dr Wayde Marr, executive chairman of Jamaica’s Vector Technology Institute, which has partnered with Alternative Power Sources on a major renewables education initiative in the Bahamas, suggested that this nation follow Jamaica’s leading on financing the sector.

#He noted that the Jamaica Development Bank offers loans at concessionary rates for PV systems installed in homes and businesses.

Source: http://www.tribune242.com/news/2012/may/10/10-15-alternative-energy-penetration-within-next/



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