By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government’s plan to eliminate import duties on solar panels and associated inverters was yesterday described as “long overdue”, sending the signal it was serious about facilitating renewable energy and reducing the Bahamas’ reliance on fossil fuels.
Guilden Gilbert, vice-president of Alternative Power Solutions (APS) Bahamas, told Tribune Business that eliminating the existing 10 per cent duty on solar panels and solar powered air conditioners would further reduce the costs of renewable energy systems.
The 45 per cent duty on solar panel inverters is also set to be eradicated come July 1, and Mr Gilbert said of the tariff reforms: “That’s a great move. It’s long overdue.
“I think it’s a good message. If the country is serious in reducing the amount of fossil fuels used, then alternative energy is the way forward. I applaud the Government for taking these steps.”
The tariff eliminations were unveiled by Prime Minister Perry Christie during his 2013-2014 Budget communication, and Mr Gilbert said they could put solar photovoltaic (PV) systems within the financial reach of more Bahamian clients.
And he added that the reduced costs might also enable Bahamian commercial and residential customers to afford larger solar PV systems.
“It will definitely go towards reducing the cost of an overall system,” Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business.
“Panels are still the largest cost of a solar PV system. It [the duty elimination] will definitely have some impact on the overall pricing and on the design of the system. We design systems to meet the needs and the budget of the client.
“Our price per watt is below $1. We can actually retail solar panels in the Bahamas for $1 per watt at this stage, and anticipate that’s going to come down with the next shipment.”
The Government also moved to create a new tariff heading for LED light fixtures, and reduce duty rates on these products from 35 per cent to zero.
“For environmental reasons we are aligning the tariff rate on inverters for solar panels to zero, in line with a new duty-free treatment for panels, and the duty on LED appliances is being eliminated to bring it in line with the treatment of LED light bulb,” the Prime Minister said.
While the measures again send the right messages to Bahamian businesses and homeowners regarding alternative energy usage, not to mention the industry itself, much more needs to be done.
The Government has yet to complete work on reforming the Electricity Act, and other pieces of legislation and policies, all of which are vital to determining the ‘rules of the game’ - and incentives available - to a renewable energy industry in the Bahamas.
The Prime Minister would only state yesterday: “I would stress that we are undertaking a critical examination of all energy proposals that we have received, such as that in respect of waste energy, such that we can move forward expeditiously with measures to reduce energy costs in his country.”