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PURC launches renewable energy programmes

Dr. George Matthew - encourages persons to get involved in solar energy production

In its bid to encourage a higher penetration of renewable energy usage on the island, the newly formed Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), has launched a ‘self-generator programme’, which will provide opportunities for persons to produce solar energy for personal use, as well as an avenue for the sale of excess energy to the nation’s key utility sector, the Grenada Electricity Services Ltd. (GRENLEC).

The PURC, which is responsible for regulating GRENLEC, was established by the PURC Act No. 20 of 2016 to ensure utility services that are affordable, reliable, efficient, and sustainable to support the national development.

Addressing the launch, which was held last week Wednesday at the Botanical Gardens in St. George, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the PURC, Dr. George Matthew said the programme is geared to “instantaneously reduce” the cost of electricity” on the island.

He explained that the regulatory body has “mechanisms in place to ensure that GRENLEC is not disadvantaged in any way by the programme” which encompasses participants installing solar energy panels on the rooftops to generate energy.

“We have what is called a single buyer model in which GRENLEC would be the network licensee, and they would be able to buy all the electricity that would come from the self-generators, (and) sell that onto the consumers,” he said.

According to Dr. Matthew, the intention is to have “competition for the market in which we will capture lower prices for the electricity that is injected into the system, which the consumers would buy”.

“…Over time, we are going to shift to a place where we have more renewables and a lower cost for electricity being injected into the system. So, GRENLEC would not be disadvantaged,” he added.

The PURC CEO expressed optimism that “in the not too distant future, we are going to see lots more benefits” including “the sustainability of the system, (and) a move away from sending out all of our foreign exchange to buy fossil fuels (because) we are going to harness all our renewables in Grenada and be able to have sustainable development from our sustainable electricity.”

Also addressing the launch was PURC Engineer Davrell Bhola, who explained that businesses, or people who are “non-residential” can also participate in the programme, which will cap at one (1) megawatt (MW), which is equivalent to 1000 kilowatts or 1,000,000 watts.

However, he noted that the “limit regarding the percentage of your consumption, would be set to 60%,” with a production capacity of “1.2 times their generation” for residential investors and will remain at “60% for non-residential (investors).”

“So, we want to cap at one (1) megawatt with these participants (of the programme), and actually analyse the system,” Bhola said, while pointing out that the intent is to use feedback from the various stakeholders to continuously improve the system.

“…We are not just thinking about generation expansion, we are (also) thinking about replacing our fossil fuel with renewables, but we also have to remember that it’s new territory for us and renewables, especially solar, is intermittent, so, we also want to see the impact that can have and we want to get it right,” he remarked.

Additionally, Bhola said that throughout the duration of the programme, the PURC will be looking at “what is happening and what we can change,” noting that “it is not going to be perfect from the word go”.

“We have to do a continuous process of improvement and we have to keep our ears open and collect feedback and we also have to analyse technical data. So, we would be getting feedback from the people participating (including) Grenlec and the financial institutions.

“There are many different players involved (and) many things (that) we have to analyse that we cannot let it pass a certain percentage of penetration without looking at what could be changed and improved before we go forward.

In an effort to “offset the energy produced by fuel and get a higher renewable energy penetration into the system,” Bhola announced that on May 12 the Commission is expected to launch a ‘small scale’ Independent Power Producer (IPP) programme, that would allow investors to produce energy using “systems in the 80, 100, 150, maybe 200 kilowatts (kWh) scale,” for the sole purpose to sell.”

“People who are willing to invest in the energy market…they can do a system and then all the energy that they generate from that system, they can sell to the utility at a feeding tariff,” the engineer explained.

However, he said that unlike the self-generator programme, in order to participate in the IPP, investors would have to come up with a “business plan and show financial and technical viability.”

The PURC officials strongly urged persons to indicate interest in participating in the programmers which are expected to, in the long run, lead to more affordable electricity prices for all Grenadians, by contacting the PURC office, which is located at Queen’s Park in St. George.

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