Gov’t urged to relax energy policies, laws

THE Government is being urged to take a more forward-thinking and innovation-friendly approach to the development of the energy sector, as some aspects of current laws and policies slow progress and prevents new thinking and money from coming into the electricity sector.

The call has come from Gerald Lindo, a professional who has worked in the private and public sectors, including with the energy ministry, in energy policy and other related areas.“A lot of creative ideas are out there as to how one may supply energy to consumers and, going forward, you’re going to need more creative ideas, both for the supply of good and cheap power and also to encourage investment. However, the way we think about self-supply currently makes these arrangements either forbidden or open to challenge,” he argued.

Lindo was making a presentation Wednesday to the joint select committee which is reviewing the 2015 Electricity Act.In his submission Lindo said the current law holds back innovation in some respects, such as the way self-generation is treated, forbidding persons from generating, transmitting, distributing, dispatching or supplying electricity without a licence.He noted, however, that this section of the law allows people to generate energy for their “exclusive use” without needing to obtain a licence, enabling some freedom for private citizens and companies.

The language in the old All Island Electricity licence, said Lindo, appeared liberal in the way it defined “person”, so that theoretically, a cooperative group of “persons” might come together and jointly own an energy-generation asset, while other more complex arrangements – such as solar leasing or performance-based energy services contracting – could also be accommodated.

However, he said, in practise such arrangements are disallowed so that, more narrowly, only individuals, individual companies, and members in a group of companies were able to take advantage of self-generation. This meant that while individuals or companies that had the means can invest in their own energy solutions, individuals could not partner with others to do so. Lindo argued that when the Electricity Act was passed in 2015 it further constricted this approach, most likely to tamp down competition in the sector.He asserted that if communities or groups of companies could invest in generation assets, this would likely pose a threat to the grid and could create a hardship for those who could not afford to leave, and who would therefore be forced to bear higher electricity costs.According to Lindo, while the approach had some merit, it was not forward-looking as restricting competition and the freedom to band together with others has held back the innovation that is needed to rapidly transform the energy sector.

Lindo said this made it harder for businesses and communities to solve their energy problems while further tilting the scales of competition towards the bigger players, which has not in fact deterred larger corporate entities and richer households from leaving the grid.“There are many possible innovations that could be introduced in electricity supply, some of which stakeholders have requested or tried to get through, but because of the way the language is treated in the law and the licences, they gave no gotten through,” he told the committee.

He recommended that Parliament considers whether it would be better to open up the self-generation subsector to include cooperative ventures, or issue more licences to supply electricity.

He suggested also that a new category of licence be created for energy storage, whether stand-alone projects or smaller systems on the level of homes or even electric vehicles, to provide useful ancillary services to the gird including voltage control, frequency control, demand response, and operating reserves.

Lindo pointed out that the current law does not allow for these technologies to be deployed in a way that gives equal opportunity to all investors.

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