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Renewable Energy Fury At Suspension: Gov’T ‘Not Turning Our Back’ On Sector

The Government yesterday pledged it was “not turning our back” on renewable energy, with senior officials describing the suspension of its much touted self-generation initiative as “in the best interests of all”.

Kevin Basden, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s (BEC) general manager, told Tribune Business the temporary delay to the Renewable Energy Self Generation (RESG) programme was intended to ensure it ‘dovetailed’ with wider energy sector reforms.

He expressed hope that the move would ultimately result in a “win-win” for consumers, BEC and its Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) subsidiary, even though many in the renewable energy industry yesterday reacted with frustration and anger to the latest obstacle to the sector’s progress.

Mr Basden was unable to give “an exact date” for when the RESG initiative would re-start, emphasising that BPL and its proposed manager, PowerSecure, would play a key role in all renewable energy-related decision making.

The BEC general manager, though, promised that the RESG programme’s new launch would occur “early in the process” of implementing reforms at both the Corporation and in the wider energy industry.

Tribune Business contacted Mr Basden after private sector contacts drew its attention to an announcement, ‘buried’ on BEC’s website, that detailed the RESG suspension.

“Due to proposed legislative and regulatory changes coming out of the energy sector reform process, it is regrettable that we must suspend the RESG programme,” the BEC statement read.

“Customers that may have installed grid tied systems are advised that they must disconnect same until the process restarts, and they complete the required approvals and authorisation process.

“Also, customers are advised not to not acquire any new systems until the required process is in place.”

Renewable energy industry executives told Tribune Business yesterday that the suspension announcement had yet to reach many sector players or customers interested in grid-tied systems and net metering (see other report on Page 1B).

They suggested the move would again deter Bahamians from getting into renewable energy, while also lengthening the ‘pay back’ period for investment returns for those who have already invested $20,000-$40,000 in solar and other systems.

Mr Basden, confirming the RESG suspension, said the decision had been taken “in light of where we are with energy sector reform and the new manager [PowerSecure] coming in.

“We had to defer that,” he added. “It is still a go. It has no been cancelled, just delayed such that when we roll it out it will be properly aligned with everything else that we are doing.”

Mr Basden added that the RESG initiative was “part of the bigger picture” with energy reform, pointing out that the new Electricity Bill mandated utility-scale renewable projects be developed in the Bahamas.

Asked when the RESG programme would re-start, he replied: “It would be premature for me to give an exact date at this time. But it’s going to be early in the process.”

Mr Basden explained that such a date was “premature in isolation” from PowerSecure which, as the management firm for BEC’s operating ‘successor’, BPL, will “play a big role” in the process.

The BEC general manager said the Corporation had wanted to launch the RESG initiative in September, having already begun registering businesses and homeowners with renewable systems, and who wanted to tie-in with the national electricity grid.

“At that point in time, as it relates to the energy sector reform initiative, things started to move rapidly, and it was a matter of ensuring that everything was aligned with that,” Mr Basden explained as the reason for the delay.

He added that the temporary suspension would ensure a good experience for renewable energy investors, and “a sustainable situation” for them, BEC and BPL.

“It would be a win-win for all,” Mr Basden told Tribune Business. “The suspension is in the best interests of all parties.

“Systems registration will continue to take place. It’s already on the books. It’s more of a timing issue than anything else… It will happen, and will happen sooner rather than later.”

Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment, also confirmed to Tribune Business yesterday that the commercial terms between RESG investors and BPL would have to be worked out with PowerSecure.

Disclosing that this would be part of BPL’s business plan, Mr Dorsett also encouraged RESG participants to keep registering their systems.

“The Government remains committed to renewable energy deployment,” Mr Dorsett said, responding to Tribune Business questions via e-mail.

“The commercial terms associated with the RESG programme will be finalised with BPL and form a part of its business plan. In the meantime, my understanding is that persons with renewable energy systems are still registering their systems and should be encouraged to do so.”

Mr Dorsett added: “My Ministry’s position is very clear. We are not turning our back on a renewable energy future and our commitment to incorporate a minimum of 30 per cent of renewable energy deployment in our energy matrix by the year 2033, as mandated by the National Energy Policy.”

Mr Dorsett was lauding the RESG initiative as recently as September 22 in the House of Assembly.

The BEC announcement, meanwhile, continued: “Customers with off-grid systems are reminded to ensure that they obtain an approved Ministry of Works Electrical Inspection Certificate, as this is a requirement for all electrical installations within the Bahamas, and will also be a requirement for the issue of an RESG Certificate when the programme restarts.

“We regret this delay but look forward to restarting the programme as soon as possible.”


Category/ies:Bahamas News, Renewable Energy.
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