Competition sought for electricity

The Electricity Regulatory Authority has begun advertising for companies to generate additional electricity to meet increased demand by 2012.

This marks the first time a company other than the Caribbean Utilities Company, which held the monopoly on power generation until earlier this year, would have the opportunity to generate electricity commercially on the island.

The ERA, which held its long-delayed first board meeting on Friday last week, is placing advertisements calling for proposals for the development and construction of new power generation on Grand Cayman.

Although CUC has a monopoly for electricity transmission for the next 20 years, according to the terms of a licence granted to it in April this year, it no longer has exclusive rights to generate power.

Grand Cayman will need an additional 32 megaWatts per hour of electricity by spring 2012, with the first 16 megaWatts required to meet demand by spring 2011, according to Philip Thomas, managing director of the ERA.

Mr. Thomas said: ‘It may be partly renewable and partly conventional.’

He said that because it would take two-and-a-half to three years for new generators to be approved installed and in operation, this meant that any companies wishing to compete with CUC on power generation would need to submit a proposal by early next year.

However, if no suitable outside bidder is found, CUC would generate the power, Mr. Thomas said.

CUC already has 15 diesel and two gas turbine generating units with a combined capacity of 136.6 megaWatts per hour.

Statements of qualifications from power companies must be submitted by Friday, 29 August, and the ERA will provide applicants with requests for proposals in December.

Also discussed at Friday’s ERA board meeting were the options being considered by CUC on buying back excess power generated by members of the public through solar panels, windmills or other methods. Cabinet will consider which of two methods of payment – net metering and net billing – would be most suitable.

The government granted CUC in April a new 21.5-year electricity generation licence, which contained specific targets for renewable energy sources. Under the terms of the licence, any private citizen wishing to generate his or her own electricity has the right to sell any excess electricity back to CUC’s grid from September this year.

Membership of the board is expected to be gazetted on Monday, more than three years after the authority was established.