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ON THE RIGHT: Need to develop relevant expertise


Hallam Hope

ON THE RIGHT: Need to develop relevant expertise

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With hardly any media attention and fanfare, the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), Barbados Light & Power Co. Limited (BL&P) and intervenors are engaged in a motion brought by the regulated energy monopoly to have changes made to an FTC decision on payment for persons who are contracted under the Renewable Energy Rider (RER).
This pilot project was officially implemented in 2010 and has been a major source of contention. Under the payments aspect of the rider, the company sought to have the right to purchase all energy generated by photovoltaic solar systems’ owners. The FTC in an earlier decision rejected this request and determined that consumers should have an option to sell excess power generated through their investment.
BL&P insists that the company stands to lose money while some consumers would be disadvantaged.
In my opinion it has, however, provided no evidence of the latter argument while the first claim is also being contested by some intervenors.
In its motion of variation, which some intervenors argue contains no new principles or arguments, the company has again advocated that “buy all/sell all” should be implemented in some instances while consumers are given a choice of “sale of excess”, meaning they sell what they do not utilise or “buy all/sell all”.
The analysis by me, one of the intervenors, interestingly concurs with that of Aidan Rogers, a lawyer who serves as Barbados Renewable Energy Association president (BREA). It is contended that the motion brought by the regulated monopoly is simply an attempt to reopen the original case as the company has not met the threshold for a motion to vary a decision. Under the Utilities Regulation Act, which is the regulatory legislation, a party bringing a motion of variation should provide either fresh evidence previously not raised, submit a new principle in law or provide evidence demonstrating error by the commission in its original conclusions.
The regulation of the emerging private energy sector requires deep understanding of policy and regulation, which the untrained individual would find a challenge. The education of the society and adoption of best practices are fundamental to Barbados gaining maximum benefit from a free resource that more advanced countries such as Germany and the United States would love to have, namely the extent of access to the sun that is lacking in regions with temperate or cold climates.
But Barbados remains far behind the ball when it comes to an academic and indeed political understanding of policy and regulatory imperatives that have been proven to work globally.
It is essential that the FTC and Government develop the expertise required to arrive at nationally beneficial approaches to implement rules and regulations, and, very importantly, the elements of competition that the new Electric Act should be used to adopt.
Whether or not the FTC will dismiss the motion of variation in its entirety and allow the renewable energy sector to take another forward step is just one of many issues that need to be addressed in coming months and years.
For ordinary folk net metering and feed-in tariffs mean little, yet are some of the main areas of contentious debate requiring informed policy and regulatory implementation if Barbados is to take advantage of a resource envied by an international community with progressive regulatory mechanisms and far more investment money.
• Hallam Hope is a long-standing student of regulation and policy.

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