Friday, April 19, 2024

Call for FTC to move with haste

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The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) urgently needs to deliver its decision on the Barbados Light & Power’s (BL&P) clean energy rider application, says Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

She made it clear that Barbados could not afford to take so long to settle rate reviews when it was looking to become resilient in the face of a climate crisis, as she also lamented the constant power outages.

“I am not going to mince words. We cannot afford to take years to settle a simple electricity rate review hearing . . . not when the last rate review was 13 years ago. We need this settled because the country needs investment,” the Prime Minister said.

She explained that Barbados had set ambitious policy objectives for renewable energy but was being restrained by regulatory lag, leading to delays in investments and critical infrastructure.

Mottley, delivering the Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals in the House of Assembly on Monday, also announced that the country would engage in direct negotiation with international suppliers of storage systems to determine what is available and most affordable.

“During the coming weeks, we will invite interested parties to pre-qualify for participation in the provision of battery storage through direct negotiation so that our first licences for storage can be issued. The abundance of solar PV (photovoltaic) licences now need to be matched by the necessary equivalent in storage licences as a matter or urgency,” she said, adding that the World Bank pointed out that the process of direct negotiation enabled governments to move more quickly to get projects off the ground.

This year a new electricity supply bill is to go before Parliament with international experts reviewing it and making recommendations for updating the Utility Regulation Act and Fair Trading Commission Act, she told the House.

“This is the time to deconstruct and reconstruct all our regulatory processes that govern those pieces of legislation to ensure that Barbados’ regulatory environment is fit for purpose for a small island developing state, and not simply a mimic of other regulatory environments that do not suit our purpose,” she said, adding that there was a need for efficient electricity regulations that kept pace with the country’s needs.

Barbados, she said, has 205 megawatts of generation approved licences and 323 megawatts in applications, and with a prediction of 650 megawatts, the island could  “absolutely meet its target of 100 per cent generation from renewable sources by 2030”.

However, that depended on getting storage into the system, beginning this year.

Mottley said the BL&P announced that the grid in its current state could only absorb 100 megawatts without adding storage.

“So immediately you see a problem. Getting storage into the energy system is now a matter of urgent national energy security and the Government has been patient, patient on these matters.”

The issues were being addressed through building a new process to succeed the feed-in tariff that was announced as a pilot by the FTC in accordance with its understanding that there would have to be competitive procurement, the Prime Minister told Barbadians.

“As a matter of urgency we need the FTC decision which we hope will come in the near future on the current clean energy transition rider by the BL&P . . . so there is clarity and predictability in the market on storage investment. This clean energy rider is to allow the BL&P to have 90 megawatts of storage. It is clear for that for all to see, the country cannot hold no more strain.

“Unless Bajans say to me they want to see load shedding – and they have not – or they want to see more power outages or they want to see all the negative outcomes that go along with grid instability, we must take immediate steps to introduce Barbados’ first battery energy storage system for the utility,” Mottley stated.

She lamented the number of power outages, including the one blamed on a monkey and another that lasted two days, remarking that “all of a sudden” outages were a part the landscape.

“Let’s talk straight . . . . We have taken too long to make decisions that can be made in a fraction of the time that it is taking to make in our jurisdiction. This is not the first time I’ve spoken to it, but I have been sensitive to the fact that we’ve given everybody a long, long, long, long rein; but we are not cutting it in relation to our timelines. It makes us utterly unattractive to investment and the loser will be the small man, small business that cannot afford a generator,” she said.

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