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Bahamas 'Will Never Hit' Renewable Energy Target

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas "is never going to make" the National Energy Policy's (NEP) goals, providers warned yesterday, with nine megawatts (MW) of renewable capacity required every year to hit target.

Philip Holdom, Alternative Power Supply's (APS) president, told Tribune Business that The Bahamas was "nowhere close" to achieving that renewable expansion rate, which he said is now needed to hit the NEP target of producing 30 percent of this nation's energy needs from sustainable sources by 2030.

His warning came as the Government moves to create an Energy Planning Unit (EPU), which will be charged with creating the road map and framework for the Bahamas to achieve these goals.

An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) document, setting out a $450,000 project to support the Electricity Act's proper implementation, found that "policy and data gaps" were preventing the Bahamas from shedding its position as the Caribbean's worst for renewable energy penetration.

The report, obtained by Tribune Business, said the NEP's "ambitious targets" for renewable energy uptake were being hindered by the absence of an execution mechanism and "poor co-ordination" between the Government, private sector and regulators.

Setting the scene, the IDB report said: "The Bahamas ranks lowest in the region for renewable energy penetration, suffers from a high fuel import bill (7 percent of GDP), high and volatile electricity prices, as well as a large and financially challenged utility, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), which experiences frequent power outages and elevated system losses.

"Additionally, in recent years, The Bahamas has suffered from strong natural disasters that impacted its GDP and energy sector, underlining the need to plan for more resilient energy infrastructure."

The reformed Electricity Act, and appointment of the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) as sector regulator, were meant to address these challenges but, to-date, have had little practical effect.

"The sustainable energy landscape within The Bahamas continues to be constrained by policy and data gaps, and lacks the resources (financial and human) that are necessary for implementing the robust administrative and governance arrangements that are necessary for effective implementation and coordination of efforts," the IDB report found.

"The overarching vision has set ambitious targets for the use of renewable energy, but there is a lack of concrete mechanisms to achieve these targets, including integrated energy planning to assist the Government of the Bahamas achieve its goals as articulated in the Electricity Act and National Energy Policy.....

"Although the Electricity Act lays out the roles and responsibilities of selected actors, its implementation has been delayed due to poor co-ordination and lack of adequate definition of roles and tasks."

The IDB-financed project has two components, one of which is the staging of an 'Energy Forum' for both private and public sector stakeholders to help develop an "action plan" aligned with the Act and National Energy Policy's goals.

The second involves the creation of an Energy Planning Unit that will be charged with co-ordinating policies and plans, and monitoring building codes, regulations, certification and guidance for industry participants.

"The general objective... is to support the Government of the Bahamas (GoBH) to strengthen its capacity to achieve a transition to the implementation of safe, least costly, reliable and environmentally sustainable electricity that will positively impact on the economy and social welfare," the IDB said of the project.

"It aims to increase the contribution of clean energy sources, such as photovoltaics and LNG, by strengthening the institutional capacity to regulate and modernise the energy sector, and will contribute to resilient infrastructure by enhancing the capacity for co-ordination between public and private sectors."

Mr Holdom yesterday said he had been unaware of the project until informed of it by Tribune Business. "The 30 [percent] by 2030; at the rate we're going we're never going to make it," he told this newspaper. "By my calculation we need to do 9 MW a year, and we're nowhere close to that."

The APS president said the Bahamas "effectively has zero" renewable generation capacity given the limits imposed by the Small Scale Residential Generation (SSRG) initiative, which caps generation capacity at 100 kilowatts (KWh).

While APS had installed a collective 5 MW in generation over the past eight years, Mr Holdom said: "We could have put in 15 times' that, but the policy is so hit and miss, and so oppressive.

"At the rate we are going, it takes an SSRG application six months from start to close, when in the US it's a five-day process. We're never going to make that goal. Yes, we are severely not meeting the requirements of the NEP as written in the Electricity Act."

Mr Holdom added that Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) was another obstacle, pointing to URCA's recent finding that the utility may have "compromised the introduction of sustainable renewable energy in the shortest possible time" by breaching the Electricity Act 2015.

The regulator, in its draft order and initial findings, said the utility monopoly had failed to meet its legal obligation to produce a Renewable Energy Plan (REP), featuring timetables and performance benchmarks, within six months of the Act taking effect.

It added that BPL's failure to produce an acceptable REP was also delaying plans "by several commercial entities" to introduce renewable self-generation projects that will generate between 1 Mega Watt (MW) to 2.5 MW of energy, with any excess sold to the utility's grid.

With only Small Scale Residential Generation (SSRG) of up to 100 kilowatts currently permitted, such projects - as well as utility-scale renewable generation - fall into a 'hole' outside the existing legal and regulatory regime.

Comments

birdiestrachan 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The Dumb idea that there should be no clothes lines in certain arears is just plan foolishness Drying clothes on the line is solar energy

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The_Oracle 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree, absolute garbage and self service by BEC/BPL and all the engineers/supporting fuel oil suppliers/engine parts suppliers etc. They need to get the hell out of the way and let the electrical code govern along with a "please do it"policy. The Carbon War Room and 100 Island challenge membership is a joke. The fact that we do't even have solar hot water heaters as the norm indicates the complete vacuous lip service that has become the joke of the Caribbean. The real Question is, where is the regulator? Why is URCA not leading and creating the standards ? Or is URCA akin to Local Govt?I know experts who have spoon fed 3 Prior Administrations minsters for BEC/Energy/Solar and nothing substantive from any of them, save more delay and confusion. Phil is correct, at this rate we will not appear on the global Alt energy map until 2200! I wonder how solar works underwater?

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John 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Y’all islanders must realize one thing. Dis ting goes wit cents and plenty dollars. The sellers of fossil fuels have deep pockets and massive inventories of products they need to sell. Not only today or tomorrow, but decades into the future. When they allow you to switch to renewable energy, not only do they lose your conch eating self as a customer, but causes them to have an increase in supply of fuel they have to sell. As the supplies increase and the demand decreases then the price will also decrease. So they will spend millions to keep countries, like the Bahamas, with little regulations, as a customer. So if you think the bust up and full dissolution of BPL’s board was about makeup and security cameras you been eating poisoned conch salad. There’s a lot of pressure on someone to get things done ad someone went and got some grease (ok lube) for BPL’s engines without a purchase order.

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akbar 10 months, 3 weeks ago

With year round sunshine and 700 islands and thieves....I mean cays the Family Islands should have been ground zero for solar power years ago especially the smaller ones. Not only would we have by now have developed a suitable system for NP ,the "Big Dollhouse" now known as BPL would have been in a better financial position by eliminating some of its liabilities from fossil fuel generation in the Family Islands. But we are a reactive nation with politicians and civic leaders who only have knee jerk responses to crisis situations. Peace and God is Great!

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TheMadHatter 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Another IDB loan? They just did a 20m loan in mid july before the first new rate VAT was even paid into Treasury. Now another loan for an undisclosed amount? Next year VAT going to 20% eh?

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DaGoobs 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I first heard about solar energy and renewables at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Been waiting since then for the Bahamas to get on the train. Unfortunately, everything here needs the Government to take the lead which they haven't really done even up to now. We are promoting 30% of renewables by 2033 but Hawaii is promoting 100% use by the same date. I don't buy Holdom's argument that we won't make our target. 30% is not that big of a target. The real issue that is being missed is that BEC/BPL will be losing customers and thereby revenue if renewables take hold. Thus there's no incentive in it for them. The National Energy Policy (NEP) being touted by Hold on is defective in that it does not set any yearly or regular goals for renewable energy. So yes it is hit or miss because Government as usual has put the framework in place but not the specific timelines. So you have this 30% goal that does not have any interim stage accomplishments built into it. So there's a long-term goal but no short-term or medium-term measurements. And don't expect much from URCA. Those guys have not created the framework through regulatory documents as to how the provisions in the Electricity Act are supposed to work. They have not created anything regarding the timing and requirements of the approvals processes, etc. The process is supposed to be certain and known but so much is uncertain and unknown that no one knows whether they agree things with BPL and the go to URCA for approvals or vice versa, agree in principle, get URCA approvals and then finalise the agreements. If an SSRG process is taking 6 months to approve, then the question should be why and what is anyone doing about it?

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The_Oracle 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree Dagoobs, as a regulator URCA is standing by while Political and BPL special interests bury Alt energy under a myriad of excuses and reasons it can't be allowed to happen or won't work. "They have been weighed, They have been measured, and they have been found wanting" Yet another form of economic blackmail the citizens and businesses suffer under, while the select few preserve themselves and bleed the country dry of foreign reserves to pay for fuel oil.

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