Laws prohibit serious renewable energy thrust in the Bahamas

The county’s laws prohibit any serious thrust in regards to the development of sources of renewable energy in The Bahamas, a recently released energy report states.

The report, The Bahamas National Energy Policy 2010, gives recommendations on how the government can conserve energy in The Bahamas and what it can do to promote the development of renewable energy. So far, according to the report, little has been done to develop renewable energy strategies.

“The current Electricity Act constrains renewable energy use in that it gives exclusive rights for the generation and sale of electricity to a single entity, thus inhibiting self-generation and interconnection, and does not impose a requirement that a certain percentage of its electricity be generated from alternate or green sources,” said the report which was released last week.

As pointed out in the report, The Bahamas energy regulatory framework is governed by the Electricity Act, the Out Island Electricity Act and the Out Island Utilities Act.

“The legislation was established to secure the supply of electricity at “reasonable” prices as well as to purchase, generate, transmit, transform, distribute and sell energy either in bulk or to individual consumers.”

“As such, the legal framework of the electricity sector and fiscal incentives would need to be reviewed and amended in order to facilitate investments for commercial applications. The present regulatory framework serves as a disincentive to private public partnerships in the expansion or development of the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure,” the report said.

However, Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the government is currently looking at the act with the view of amending it.

“We’re looking at opening the energy sector to allow more participation for small energy producers,” he said.

He added that the government will remove some of the operational obstacles that now exist to further widen the energy opportunities.

Neymour said the government will also launch a pilot project to allow for wider participation among homeowners.

“We have already purchased 33 photovoltaic systems or solar panels to provide to customers who meet certain criteria and allow them to produce their own power,”?he said.

Neymour said he will make an announcement about the initiative in the coming weeks. However he said the government will launch the program within the next three months.

The report notes that the existing Electricity Act, as the core piece of sector legislation, does not address the relevant issues that are required to implement the objectives of a national energy policy.

For example, the reports indicate that there are “no national schemes for the promotion of renewable energy sources or energy efficiency measures; and there are no rules for the interconnection of power generation capacity in place that would allow an independent power producer to connect generation to a grid, among other things.”

“Therefore, it can be concluded that a basic change in the institutional set up as well as the sector structure and framework will be required to create an environment that enables achievement of the policy objectives, and to allow for sustainability and efficency of service provision,” the report said.

It adds that the establishment of renewable energy at both the residential and utility levels encounter a number of challenges including a lack of awareness, knowledge and skills among users, planners, designers, and service providers; as well as a lack of access to capital to cover the high up front investments, and a lack of incentives for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC)?to buy electricity from independent power producers rather than transferring all costs to the final customer, among other things.

According to the report, possible renewable resources which can be utilised in The Bahamas include bio-energy, solar (hot water and power generation by photovoltaic systems), wind, ocean energy, and waste-to-energy at residential, commercial, industrial and utility scales.

“The Bahamas has some oil and gas potential in non-renewable reserves within its exclusive economic zone. There are no proven reserves of easily exploitable fossil fuel sources of significant quantities in The Bahamas based on survey activities undertaken to date.

“The potential for tapping them at current market rates may not be financially viable. As a result, The Bahamas is wholly dependent on imported petroleum products to meet its needs. This situation is unlikely to change in either the short or medium term based on current knowledge,” noted the report.