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THE HOYOS FILE: FTC in reverse – buy some batteries


PAT HOYOS

THE HOYOS FILE: FTC in reverse – buy some batteries

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Do you want to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy, without worrying about the anti-consumer rulings of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC)?

Well, then, you must take the FTC’s advice and buy some batteries.

Wait a darn minute, you say, how can you call the FTC anti-consumer? Well, first, it’s only an opinion, and second, would you care to read this line from the commission’s August (if not “august” as in “impressive”) ruling on renewable energy?

“(Para) 71. The Commission notes that under the (Barbados Light & Power’s) pilot programme, where customers were given the flexibility to choose their billing option, most chose ‘sale of excess’.” (FTC Decision on the Motion to Review Renewable Energy Rider, dated August 13, 2014, p.24)

Would this faze (sorry) the FTC? Not at all. It continues in the very next sentence, without so much as a ‘but’ or a ‘however’: “A continuation of this trend would disadvantage the Applicant (meaning the BL&P) and possibly non-RER customers.”

So, I ask the FTC, why did you make that ruling last year? Were not the same facts presented to you? What compelling new evidence did you receive to make you reverse yourself in this embarrassing way?

The answer is to be found at Para. 65 on page 22 of the decision: “The projected loss in base revenue to the Applicant, if all 7MW of installed capacity (which was the limit set in the RER Decision) is billed using the ‘sale of excess’ arrangement, is approximately $2.3 million (Table 4). This is because under the sale of excess arrangement, not all of the fixed costs associated with generation and distribution are recovered due to reduced energy sales. However, under the ‘buy all/sell all’ billing arrangement, the Applicant’s sales volume is unaffected and its base revenue is not compromised.”

Note that reference to Table 4. It is a table supplied by – who else? – the BL&P. And even they could not come up with a higher number, being the honest folks they are. So are you really saying that this whole thing was about not allowing the electricity company’s “base revenue” to fall by two million bucks?

Dear FTC, you are ruling in a way that seems to go against the Government’s stated policy of taking this country into “greener” pastures via all of its initiatives to encourage local households and businesses to reduce our nation’s carbon footprint. In short, you are ruling against the future of the world.

There are countries I have heard about which produce so much electricity now, from renewable sources including garbage, that they would like to export it. And others which are looking for garbage to import for their renewable energy plants. No talk there about this creaky, unreliable up-and-down thing called sun and wind power. Not stable enough, however, is the rationale for limiting intake to five or seven megawatts. To use the lingo, it is “intermittent”.

Do I care? Nope. I wish the light and power company lots of profits, and it would not be for little ol’ me to tell them they are going about it the wrong way.

I will let the FTC do it, even if they didn’t realise they did it.

In its justification for its decision to reverse its last decision, the FTC noted at para. 64 on page 21 that big entities, like companies, which it calls in BL&P lingo “Secondary Voltage Power” and “Large Power” customers, would actually benefit from the switch, since “these customers typically use all their onsite RE generated electricity internally.”

So by forcing them to “sell all” to the BL&P and it to “buy all” from them, the big customers actually do better, because “such customers are credited for their entire RE generation at 1.6 times the FCA (fuel clause adjustment”).

However, homeowners will only be allowed to “sell some” of the electricity they produce and the power company will only have to “buy some” at the 1.6 times FCA rate. “Individual customers” will only get this amount for up to 1.5 times their average use, up to a maximum of 150 kW.  Above those benchmarks, the rate will be the same as the FCA rate.

Of course, this all puts the ball neatly back into the BL&P’s court, but even then, right after the FTC delivered everything it wanted on a gilt-edged platter, the electric company started to complain about bursting through the 7MW barrier way too soon.

So, long and short of it, is that the FTC is allowing the power company to remain in full control of the introduction of renewable energy into its own national grid. And don’t you forget who owns it.

But I actually welcome that, because the best part about the FTC’s decision is found at Paragraph No. 69:

“The Commission recognises that customers install RE systems in an effort to obtain some level of independence from grid-supplied electricity and its attendant charges. Given this objective, the commission is satisfied that NONE of the billing or metering options RESTRICTS the customer’s ability to use their grid-tied RE systems INDEPENDENT of the grid. Such independence in the event of grid failure could be achieved in either case, with the installation of a bimodal inverter and batteries.” (caps mine)

In other words, you can create as much of your own electricity as you like, whether you are grid-tied or not. There is nothing to stop you from having two or three separate smaller systems not tied at all to the grid, or which can plug into the grid (meaning a socket at home) like you would plug in any appliance, in case you wish to purchase the electricity if the batteries for them are low that day.

 By keeping their sails so close to the wind, the BL&P could find its sleek sailboat outrun and out-tacked by a lot of pesky mosquito boats.

I know of what I speak from practical experience, and I tell you, it is just great.

 

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