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Renewable energy our solution

Renewable energy our solutionHallam Hope is a student of regulation and policy.

BY HALLAM HOPE | TUE, JANUARY 22, 2013 – 12:01 AM

WE ARE HEARING the problem loud and clear. And we know the problem: our oil import bill is rising rapidly and threatening our economic existence.

I made the comment on Starcom Network’s Brass Tacks Sunday recently that the solution must be addressed in a national policy involving both public sector and private sector brains.

Further, hard decisions are needed, accompanied by forceful implementation of liberalisation of the ages-old power monopoly, currently held by Emera via its subsidiary, Barbados Light & Power Company Limited (BL&P).

These are the twin issues to hand for urgent attention in any blueprint strategy. The next steps involve getting to work on them, not talking further about an annual oil import bill reported to be fast approaching $800 million.

It would be myopic to regard the Renewable Energy Rider (RER) and the fuel clause adjustment (FCA) as separate arrangements between the power company and customers with the role of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) being to regulate rates and conditions of any arrangement between stakeholders.

No, absolutely not. They are both parts of a renewable energy policy and should be treated as such nationally. Renewable energy clearly exceeds the human resources capacity of the FTC as the rules, regulations and legal role of the Commission clearly demonstrate.

While I have the utmost respect for the Commission, I do believe that Barbados must understand that policy issues that impact on the national good and affect every aspect of the economy, including the vital tourism sector, cannot be left to the limited legal role of the FTC.

Further the commission has gone about regulating the renewable energy matters incorrectly by firstly treating them as separate issues when there is strong correlation between the FCA and the RER and secondly by using an approach that is unfamiliar to best-practice regulation with regard to the RER.

Rather than providing all stakeholders, the power company, business, Government and consumers with an independent consultation paper, consumers have effectively been presented with a document that is based substantially on recommendations of the power company.

While BL&P has every right to be a party on the RER, we should have not have a process where it is allowed to unduly influence the thinking and outcome of any decision by the Fair Trading Commission.

But by basing the current RER consultation primarily on the commercial interests of the monopoly, by requiring little justification or insubstantial evidence and by allowing a consultation paper that is incomplete and in some cases contains inaccurate information and inappropriate questions, this is exactly the situation what prevails today.

It must also be of concern that key decisions affecting policy will be taken, influenced by BL&P and by a Commission which has no legal mandate to implement renewable energy policy. I stress policy as against regulations and rates.

Clearly, a lot is amiss. The Fair Trading Commission has excellent staff but the matter of policy decision-making is above their heads and those of the commissioners.

National policy that can so critically affect the lifestyle of all Barbadians should not be in the domain of the FTC under its current limited legal mandate to regulate rates and oversee fair competition.



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