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Energy strategy should be: all of the above

SONIA GREEN-BROWN
sbrown@graphitebahamas.com

Published: Sep 10, 2013

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Now more than ever it seems BEC is in the news, mostly thanks to its colorful and enigmatic executive chairman and his regular wrangling with its two unions.

However, the plans to finally restructure BEC have captured the imagination of consumers and avid investors alike. While changes to BEC are overdue and important, we need to be ready to adopt an “all of the above” approach to how we generate, manage and conserve energy.

The commentaries so far have suggested a plan to possibly separate the generation of electricity and the distribution of electricity into two distinct entities. A plan that could have some merit and in truth has been bandied about for years, sorry decades.

I think most of us are just happy that someone in government acknowledges that business as usual at BEC is simply not good enough.

The changes set to take place in BEC, though, need to necessarily be a part of a bi-partisan energy plan so that successive governments continue to develop on what any previous one has started so that programs are not victims of the stop, review and cancel activities that bear expensive burdens on common taxpayers.

Typically business consumers get a strong voice, but input from residential consumers is equally important.

A comprehensive approach is needed for many reasons, not least of all is the fact that many persons are still unable to connect their behavior to the amount they are charged by BEC at the end of each month.

Operators of government buildings continue to be the worst culprits continuing to leave lights on well after office hours and certainly more education is needed for consumers large and small to help develop not only our energy literacy but to help us understand how to select electronics and appliances that are not only efficient but also cost effective.

Indeed it is important for consumers to understand that very simple behavioral changes can greatly reduce our energy expense.

In all though, comprehensive changes to how we access energy could and should include options that have private companies selling power to BEC.

I would like to see consideration given to full privatization of the provision of electricity in the Family Islands, with execution by smaller, nimble entities that are able to harness renewable technology and optimize micro-generation.

Any energy plan for The Bahamas needs to keep the tourism industry at the forefront and as such would find creative ways to make more funding available to help hotels to monitor and invest in renewable energy solutions.

Indeed big consumers could be incentivized for generating a portion of the power they consume using renewables and for implementing a progressive energy plan to include efficiency and conservation measures to minimize loading on the utility. Conversely those with poor energy habits should be penalized accordingly.

I think the biggest relief could come if we allowed PPAs or Power Purchase Agreements for micro-generation. This would allow, for example, for solar companies to supply and maintain PV systems for residential consumers who in turn just purchase power directly from these suppliers.

In short, restructuring BEC is an idea whose time has come but this needs to be just a part of a much bigger plan to manage our energy resources.

 

• We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com. Sonia Brown is principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.

 

 
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