By YOURI KEMP
A renewable energy provider yesterday likened the latest regulatory proposal to private well users selling all water they produce to the Water & Sewerage Corporation before consuming it.
Philip Holdom, president of Alternative Power Supply (APS), told Tribune Business he “completely disagrees” with the “buy all, sell all” compensation mechanism that the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) is proposing for systems between 100 kilowatts and one megawatt (MW) of capacity that want to grid-tie with Bahamas Power & Light (BPL).
“Alternative Power Supply... cannot understand how this could be forwarded as a ‘fair’ solution or a serious attempt to increase solar penetration in The Bahamas, reduce our fossil fuel dependence and lower an individual’s or business light bill,” Mr Holdom blasted in a statement sent to Tribune Business.
“The renewable energy sector in no way misunderstood anything that they said, nor did we think they were referring to the Small Scale Renewable Generation (SSRG) programme. We were only referring to the absurdity of the Renewable Energy Self-Generation (RESG) initiative. It sounds like Mr Cambridge is speaking on behalf of BPL. Hmmmm. Didn’t he come from BEC? Of course.”
URCA is proposing a “buy all, sell all” approach for all renewable energy self-generation systems.
This means, according to URCA, that government facilities and businesses will not be able to consume any electricity generated by their renewable systems. They will instead have to export all energy they generate to BPL, and consume all the electricity they need from the state-owned monopoly at the standard retail tariff levied on all its customers.
URCA is proposing that those who “sell all” to BPL under this arrangement are compensated by the equivalent of BPL’s monthly fuel charge, which normally accounts for 50-60 percent of customer bills. This will be paid via either credits to the utility bill or via cash.
To illustrate how he believes this will work in practice, Mr Holdom used the analogy of a homeowner with a private well supplying all the water they produce to the Water & Sewerage Corporation.
“Imagine that at your home or place of business, you have a Water and Sewerage (W&S) pipe coming in,” he said. “Imagine then that the water supplied is poor quality, expensive and is often not available. You then decide to pay for your own water solution by drilling your own well (solar system) so that you can consume your own water (solar energy), when and how you want and save on buying W&S water (reduce your light bill).
“Imagine then that you have so much well water that you could sell water to W&S. Unfortunately, you are told for 10 years that you cannot because you might endanger the lives of W&S pipe workers with your water supply.
“Finally, in the 11th year, you are told that you can ‘sell your water to W&S through a ‘net billing’ arrangement. So you go ahead and plumb pipes to connect to the water pipe ‘grid’ and prepare to sell any excess water back to W&S,when you have excess water.”
Mr Holdom continued: “Now W&S provides water to you from ‘outside their meter’ (BPL meter). The well provides you with water (solar power) from ‘inside their meter’. No one would obviously have a meter on their own well because it is ‘free water’.
“The alternative water source...the well, the pump and the pipes (solar system) is paid for by the business owner at their expense. If the business turns off the valve from W&S and then turns on its well pump, it would not be charged for any water from the well. In solar terms this is called an ‘off grid system’. If the business sells water to the W&S pipe grid, that would be called a ‘grid tied’ system.”
He added: “What URCA is proposing is the equivalent to W&S putting a meter on the business owner’s well and diverting the water from that well to their water main. The law then says the business may only buy water from W&S, and if they have a well, they can only sell the water to W&S...The business cannot consume its own water.
“In addition, when the business draws water from W&S, it will cost $1 per gallon, but if it uses its well at any time, W&S is required to take all the water from the business’s well, and they will only pay the business half the value of its water, say 50 cents per gallon.
“If W&S wanted to, they could also pay the business 50 cents for water in its well and turn around and sell it right back to the business at $1. In addition, the business would be required to take out an insurance policy to protect the Water & Sewerage companies’ pipes from being damaged by its well pump.”
Mr Holdom described this as “the equivalent of a mouse stepping on an elephant’s toe and the elephant suing. Of course, if W&S damages the company’s well, well pump or pipes, it would not be responsible and would not pay for any damage to the business property”.
Asked about the ‘buy all, sell all’ compensation mechanism URCA proposes, Mr Holdom replied: “The ‘buy all, sell all’ term is not meant for small homes or small businesses generating their own power. Individual businesses do not want to become independent power companies (IPPs) or producers. T
“They want to be in the business for what they want to be in business for. The ‘buy all, sell all’ term is meant for companies that intend to become a power plant or energy provider for customers. The people at URCA are therefore using that term all wrong and out of place, as the term is for IPP’s and not for any and every entity that produces alternative energy.”