Renewable Energy Thrust Gets LA Support
Legislators unanimously voted for the Government to consider, as a matter of urgency, the creation of a National Energy Policy within the next six months with the aim of reducing Cayman’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The unanimous vote shortly before midnight on Thursday (5 May) came mere days before Cayman Utilities Company (CUC) broke ground on Monday (9 May) for its 5 megawatt solar power plant with partner Entropy.
George Town MLA Winston Connolly, who brought the motion to the House, stressed the need for Cayman to look to alternative energy or it will be left behind as other countries move towards reducing their carbon footprint.
“We need to find what is best for us and reduce reliance on outside fossil fuel,” the MLA contended.
He called for a stronger political will to move the thrust for renewable energy forward as he reminded government that a national energy policy was a campaign trail promise that is yet to materialise.
Prior to bringing his motion to the House Mr Connolly, together with Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo, who seconded the motion, launched a social media campaign on Facebook to canvass public opinion on the issue and get comments to build into his motion.
It was the first time social media influence was utilised in such a big way to carry a motion forward.
Mr Connolly described the response as “overwhelming” as some 15,215 people viewed his call to action on the issue, with some 377 likes of the motion which was posted on Facebook and 345 shares with multiple likes of the motion.
The MLA also indicated that he posted a video on social media which received 12,311 interactions.
“This speaks volumes on a small island like this. It means people are interested and it means they want some energy security and they want lower costs and they agree with the motion,” Mr Connolly said.
He lamented that while there may be some members who may have investments in utilities, “we need to think about what elected here to do which is to look after the people who elected us” as he called for all members to support his motion.
The MLA, who previously chaired the national energy policy committee, said he was willing to continue on the committee even though he is no longer part of the government because it is a bi-partisan issue which needs all hands on deck.
“We have to plan to wean ourselves off fossil fuels,” Mr Connolly contended and that, he said, needs all sides working together to find a solution.
He said renewable energy could even help drive down government spending on social relief provided to citizens who require help paying electricity costs monthly.
He suggested that a study be done to weigh the costs of installing solar panels on homes of people who receive monthly vouchers for electricity bills versus the amount of money spent to pay bills.
The MLA acknowledged that when there is a monopoly, such as the one held by CUC, there will be resistance to change.
However he said, “The time is now. Our people are looking to us to have those decisions made and have those conversations with CUC to work out those plans.”
Planning, Lands, Agriculture, Housing and Infrastructure Minister Hon Kurt Tibbetts, in his contribution to the debate, announced that the energy committee is now chaired by J Paul Morgan and he expects that the committee will meet as soon as this week.
He agreed that renewable energy must move beyond talk and it was time for action. The minister said he would have the last agreement with CUC reviewed, in particular the waivers on certain equipment and have them updated as technology would have moved on since the agreement was signed.
Mr Tibbetts said he believes the Public Utilities Commission would be the entity that should be charged with oversight of the energy policy and the legislation for the PUC is being drafted at this time.
“The intention is to have the Commission up and running so that the Commission will have oversight itself over the agreed national energy policy and its implementation thereby there will be no questions asked as to anybody’s ability to have the implementation done. I believe it was going to take a creature of that nature for implementation to be done, not only in a timely manner, but to get the results that are desired,” Minister Tibbetts told legislators.
He admitted that it was a “large learning curve”, but contended that there has to be a plan and one that is sustainable.
“We cannot be hodge-podge or pitchy patchy with it,” he said.
Opposition Leader Hon McKeeva Bush, Finance and Economic Development Minister Hon Marco Archer, Education Minister Tara Rivers and Mr Suckoo all spoke on the motion and gave their support as well.
Independent MLA Arden McLean also contributed to the debate and spoke of his efforts as a minister to engender a greater level of participation in moving renewable energy forward and pointed to licences which were agreed to in regulations and policies he oversaw to build an energy shift in Cayman.
The amended motion, which was agreed to by 16 members, one member was absent for the vote, resolved that government consider as a matter of urgency the introduction and passage into law of the National Energy Policy which sets in place relevant Millennium Development Goals, Sustainable Development Goals and the climate change goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference; setting a renewable energy target of 30 per cent by 2020; 50 per cent by 2025; 75 per cent by 2030; 100 per cent by 2035.
It also resolved that government consider performing an independent energy audit on all government buildings to be tabled at the Legislative Assembly and consider replacing all lights with LED lights in each, such work to be carried out by local companies; and (a) installing the maximum number of solar panels on the Government Administration Building (GAB); (b) creating a solar covered parking structure to cover the majority of the parking area at the GAB. It also called for government to consider installing a reasonable amount of electric charging stations at the GAB; and utilising battery storage technology which proves to be economical and allows for emergency backup power while adding stability to the CUC grid.
As part of a carbon emission reduction goal, the motion called for government to aim for 20 per cent of all registered vehicles on the Cayman roads to be electric vehicles or hybrids by 2020 and to provide the necessary incentives to facilitate this goal, further reduce the import duty on each.
The motion also resolved that government ensure appropriate solar power systems are provided to Caymanian households whose combined income falls below the poverty level identified in the Minimum Wage law and all government built homes by way of subsidy; and implement a strategy on the importation and use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), as an alternative to propane and introduction of CNG stations as an alternative to petrol stations among other initiatives.
Category/ies:Cayman Island News, News, Solar Energy.
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