By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) residential consumers should be able to install grid-tied renewable energy systems by the end of January 2017, the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority’s (URCA) top executive said yesterday.
Stephen Bereaux, while speaking on the sidelines of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) Energy Security Forum, said URCA had yesterday published an initial decision and preliminary determination on BPL’s small-scale renewable generation plan.
The document sets out URCA’s proposed revision of BPL’s plan for residents and businesses interested in the sale, installation and use of solar panels for the generation of electricity.
“What URCA has released is its preliminary determination, and an initial decision, on BPL’s renewable energy plan,” Mr Bereaux said.
“What we have done at this stage is that in order to further the National Energy Policy for the introduction of renewables, we have approved BPL moving forward with the first phase of what we are calling the small-scale renewable generation programme”.
The URCA chief further explained: “What that will mean is that early in 2017, I would say definitely by the end of January, customers, residential customers, would be able to apply to BPL to install grid-tied solar and wind systems in the Bahamas, and sell the excess energy back into the grid.
“What happens is the customer uses what it produces, and any excess energy can be sold back into the grid at the fuel charge, so effectively the customer would receive a credit on their bill for energy sold back into the grid at the fuel charge level.”
The Government last November suspended itds then-Residential Energy Self-Generation (RESG) programe to ensure it ‘dovetailed’ with wider energy sector reforms, including PowerSecure’s take over of BPL’s management.
“There are limits by each island regarding the system size that customers can install,” Mr Bereaux said, explaining that these largely mirrored the RESG plan.
“On New Providence, the limits for a residential home will be the average customer demand, which effectively is the average amount a customer pulls from the grid. The customer will be able to effectively sell back to the grid 5 KW (kilowatts) or thereabouts.”
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, while addressing yesterday’s forum, again said BPL’s business plan was “more ambitious” than the Government’s National Energy Policy (NEP), calling for renewables to generate 20 per cent of this nation’s electricity within five years.
The National Energy Policy 2013-2033 aims to have 30 per cent of the Bahamas’ energy needs generated from renewable sources by 2030.
Speaking on BPL’s renewable energy plan Mr Bereaux said: “The small-scale part we felt was very close to ready, so we made some changes and hopefully they will come back to us very quickly with those changes made.
“The commercial limits will be a bit higher. We had a slightly different requirement. Commercial systems will also be able to be installed, and the limit for those on New Providence would be twice the average customer demand or 100 KW; whichever is less.
“Effectively. you could have small commercial installations up to 100 KW. The utility-scale plan requires a lot more effort by BPL and URCA because we’re not sure it goes quickly enough to result in real opportunities for utility-scale generation,” he added.
“We’re not going to get to the targets we want with people just putting panels on houses. We decided to accept what was ready so we did the small-scale stuff. It’s still open for consultation, but at least it affords people to get started on this critical area. The utility scale stuff we will be looking at very early in 2017, with the aim of having a clear plan, identified projects and the process started for those projects as early as possible next year.”