Solar power should be promoted not discouraged


Dear Sir,

The purpose of this letter is to concur with, and add to, the letter by Ashmead Ali published September 4 entitled “Watt? Belco surcharge needs looking into”.

I would like to further explain the impact of the Regulatory Authority of Bermuda Order of August 2016 and then bring up the bigger issue of promoting solar power in Bermuda.

I, like Mr Ali, am also an owner of a residential solar power system having a legacy net-metering agreement with Belco.

As stated in Belco’s 2016 Net-Metering Filing, this programme was curtailed and frozen at 325 customers on August 15, 2016. Also, in this filing Belco stated that it would “grandfather existing customers who have made concrete financial investments relying on the existing programme”.

Unfortunately, for the legacy customers, the Order ignored the Belco intention to grandfather legacy customers. The Order, as Mr Ali so aptly demonstrated with his specific example, instituted a new charging algorithm for both legacy and new solar power users that advantaged Belco and disadvantaged legacy solar power owners.

Additionally, via the Order, Belco no longer has to pay us for “fuel adjustment” charges while being allowed to sell our excess power to other Bermuda households including the FA charge. In fact, Belco spent no fuel for this power, as it was generated by our solar panels and thus profited on the full FA cost.

This is not only unfair, but borders on unethical. Mind you, this is not Belco’s fault, as it is merely following the Order.

As an aside, the Belco FA cost has risen a whopping 26 per cent just this year from 10.25 to 12.90 cents per kWh.

I believe this decision was wrong on several levels. First, from a contractual point of view, how does an outside entity — the RA — have the right effectively to change the terms and conditions of the contract I have with Belco?

Since when can a third party step in and change a contract between two other parties. Perhaps the legal community could weigh in on this one.

Lastly, when considering the larger question of what is good for Bermuda, why is the Government discouraging the future use of clean residential solar power?

The Order effectively increased the break-even point — return on investment — for the cost of my residential solar power system by more than 20 per cent, from approximately ten years to 12-plus years.

Considering that, through technology, the cost of solar-generated power is dropping and that the cost of diesel fuel — used by Belco — erratically varies, discouraging solar makes no sense to me.

With Bermuda’s economy hampered by seemingly ever-increasing energy costs, shouldn’t the Government, through the RA, be promoting the future use of clean residential solar power and not doing the opposite?

PATRICK CERRA

Southampton

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Published Sep 25, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Sep 25, 2018 at 9:01 am)

Solar power should be promoted not discouraged

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