Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Government pushes for more renewable energy choices

Lawmakers voted in favour of a private member’s motion by UDP backbencher Cline Glidden to make it easier for people to produce and use renewable energy in their homes or businesses.

The motion by Mr. Glidden, a West Bay Member of the Legislative Assembly, called for the government to “take all necessary steps to eliminate all utility-imposed restrictions on a person’s individual or business right to use renewable energy systems to offset utility consumption, thus reducing or eliminating utility costs and … to implement net metering using the [US] Interstate Renewable Energy Commission model rules for both net metering and grid interconnection”.

Under the current Consumer-owned Renewable Energy arrangement of Feed-in Tariff System, or FITS, the Caribbean Utilities Company, which has the exclusive right to distribute electricity in Grand Cayman, buys 100 per cent of electricity produced by alternative energy systems from those who have signed up for the programme at 37 cents per kilowatt hour. Those individuals then buy electricity back from CUC’s main grid at the retail rate, which is currently 29 
cents per kilowatt hour.

Net metering enables a bi-directional flow of electricity. Throughout the day, a customer’s solar, wind-generated or other alternative energy system may produce more or less electricity than is needed for his or her home or business. When the system’s production exceeds the customer demand, the excess energy generation automatically goes through the electric meter into the utility grid, running the meter backward to credit the customer’s account. When the customer’s electricity demand is higher than the renewable energy system is 
producing, the customer relies on additional power from the utility company.

Mr. Glidden pointed out that there had not been much uptake from consumers of the pilot FITS system.

The one-year pilot programme was introduced in January 2010 and is under review. By last month, only nine people had signed up for the programme – eight residential customers and one commercial business.

“What is proposed in this motion is a system that would allow a homeowner to produce electricity for his own use and whatever electricity that is not used in its own facility, that would then be sold on to the gird, sold to CUC, at a rate equivalent to the rate that is charged by CUC. Hence, we have net metering,” said Mr Glidden. More