Letter of the Day | Is JPS scapegoating renewable energy users?
THE EDITOR, Sir:
As a user of residential renewable energy for much of the past decade and a long-time advocate of renewable energy, it was with much concern that I read Ryon Jones' article 'Solar disconnect' in the February 19, 2017 edition of The Sunday Gleaner.
It would seem to me that the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) is attempting, disingenuously, to:
1. Lay the blame (wholly or partially) for increased prices to the Jamaican consumer on the growth in the adoption of renewable energy at the residential and commercial levels, and by so doing:
2. To negatively influence Government's energy policy away from the 2030 target of attaining a contribution from renewable energy of 20 per cent of distributed generation.
Your readers ought to be reminded that the JPS initiated in 2012, as part of our National Energy Policy, a two-year Net Billing Pilot Programme, further extended to 2015. Without prior consultation with its Jamaican stakeholders, the programme was abruptly suspended in early 2015. What is of great concern is that the decision to suspend the programme was made while an independent evaluation commissioned by the Office of Utilities Regulation was being done (Source: www.nrel.gov/docs/fy16osti/65544.pdf). The highlights of the report of the evaluators, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the US, published in December 2015, are revealing in light of JPS's high-handedness:
- Only 80 of 326 applicants successfully interconnected to the grid;
- Only 1/10th of planned RE contribution achieved (0.2% vs 2.0% programme cap);
- Inordinately long processing times for applications for contracts under the Net Billing Programme;
- The programme has successfully contributed to the growth of the emerging solar market in Jamaica.
JPS's several undisguised attempts to dissuade its customers from adopting renewable-energy solutions on the basis of its Lilliputian attempt at implementation is quite dishonest.
I would suggest the following to JPS as areas worth far more to their effort at reducing the cost of energy to the Jamaican consumer:
i. Unwavering focus on system losses,which have been moving in the wrong direction from 23.3 per cent in 2011 to 27 per cent of total generation in 2015 (JPS annual report 2015). This is the primary culprit for the high cost to the Jamaican consumer. Significantly, most of these losses are due to aged, outmoded JPS-owned infrastructure;
ii. Given that JPS customer base has shown net growth since 2011, adopt net metering in place of net-billing system for residential users - more expensive for both parties (See NREL report for modalities);
iii. Recover cost of accommodating net-metering system via an interconnection fee for all grid-tied systems; whether selling to the grid or not.