Government pushes for more renewable energy choices

CUC lg

Lawmakers voted in favour of a private member’s motion by UDP backbencher Cline Glidden to make it easier for people to produce and use renewable energy in their homes or businesses. 

The motion by Mr. Glidden, a West Bay Member of the Legislative Assembly, called for the government to “take all necessary steps to eliminate all utility-imposed restrictions on a person’s individual or business right to use renewable energy systems to offset utility consumption, thus reducing or eliminating utility costs and … to implement net metering using the [US] Interstate Renewable Energy Commission model rules for both net metering and grid interconnection”. 

Under the current Consumer-owned Renewable Energy arrangement of Feed-in Tariff System, or FITS, the Caribbean Utilities Company, which has the exclusive right to distribute electricity in Grand Cayman, buys 100 per cent of electricity produced by alternative energy systems from those who have signed up for the programme at 37 cents per kilowatt hour. Those individuals then buy electricity back from CUC’s main grid at the retail rate, which is currently 29 
cents per kilowatt hour.  

Net metering enables a bi-directional flow of electricity. Throughout the day, a customer’s solar, wind-generated or other alternative energy system may produce more or less electricity than is needed for his or her home or business. When the system’s production exceeds the customer demand, the excess energy generation automatically goes through the electric meter into the utility grid, running the meter backward to credit the customer’s account. When the customer’s electricity demand is higher than the renewable energy system is 
producing, the customer relies on additional power from the utility company.  

Mr. Glidden pointed out that there had not been much uptake from consumers of the pilot FITS system.  

The one-year pilot programme was introduced in January 2010 and is under review. By last month, only nine people had signed up for the programme – eight residential customers and one commercial business. 

“What is proposed in this motion is a system that would allow a homeowner to produce electricity for his own use and whatever electricity that is not used in its own facility, that would then be sold on to the gird, sold to CUC, at a rate equivalent to the rate that is charged by CUC. Hence, we have net metering,” said Mr Glidden. 

In 2010, the Electricity Regulatory Authority turned down a proposal made by CUC on 11 June that year to introduce a form of net metering in Cayman. The regulator considered that CUC’s proposal did not meet the base criteria of true net metering for a variety of reasons, which included CUC’s suggestion to use two meters instead of one; to limit the number of people who could use net metering to 100; and instead of paying the value of exported energy directly to the consumer/generator, the money would be credited to the consumer after 12 months.  

CUC also wanted to recover the value of the credit for exported energy to the grid through the monthly fuel factor, but the energy exported to the grid would be resold by CUC to other consumers at the retail rate, which is the base rate plus the fuel charge. According to a letter from the late managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority Philip Thomas issued in November 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information request: “the ERA did not consider CUC’s June 11 proposal took sufficient account of the value of those resold kilowatt hours”. 

Mr. Thomas said in the letter that the regulatory body had turned down the CUC net metering proposal to “protect the economic interests of consumers”. 

The Electricity Regulatory Authority subsequently approved CUC’s FITS proposal. 

Mr. Glidden acknowledged during his motion debate in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, 11 April, that installing alternative energy systems in homes and businesses was expensive, but said the systems would pay for themselves over a few years. He used an example of a home or business owner who was being charged $20,000 a year by CUC for electricity. If that person spent $100,000 on an alternative energy system, it would take five years, not including any interest the person may have to pay if he or she has borrowed the money, to get a return on his or her investment, he said. 

Arden McLean, MLA for East End, who was the former minister of works, said he was in favour of the FITS system and did not want to see net metering adopted as the only option in Cayman. “I hope we don’t go to the point where it’s only net metering because the consumer will not benefit as greatly as [with] FITS,” he said. He urged CUC to work with the Electricity Regulatory Authority again and make another proposal to Cabinet regarding Consumer-owned Renewable Energy production. 

“FITS protects people, net metering does not,” Mr. McLean said. 

Mr. Glidden’s motion seeks to remove restrictions placed by CUC on consumers over the amount of electricity they can generate using alternative power means.  

Under the FITS programme, there is a quota of one megawatt of energy that can be produced and added to CUC’s grid. The maximum permitted size of the individual renewable energy systems is the lesser of the customer’s peak demand for existing systems measured over a period of up to 12 months or the estimated peak demand for new connections, with a maximum of 20 kilowatts for residential systems and 50 kilowatts for commercial systems. Commercial customers were initially limited to 70 per cent of the 1MW of capacity installed. 

By March, just 8 per cent of the 1 megawatt quota of energy had been supplied by the consumers who signed up for the scheme. 

Mr. Glidden told lawmakers that with Cayman having an average of 320 days of strong sunlight a year, people should be encouraged to use that sunlight for solar power and should have incentives to produce alternative energy. 

He acknowledged that in the long run, CUC would make less revenue if much more alternative energy was produced and used in Cayman, but said ultimately the territory and the consumers would benefit significantly as the Islands’ dependence on fossil fuels would be reduced and the utility bills of users would also be reduced. 


The government supports an elimination of Caribbean Utilities Company’s restrictions on generation of renewable energy. – Photo: Jeff Brammer


  1. I think the final paragraph sums up CUC’s opposition to privately owned wind and solar power generation – it will cut their profits.

    I cannot believe this nonsense is still going on more than five years after I was reporting on it for Net News.

    At that time CUC were arguing that net metering was unsafe, despite the fact that (as is being reported above) is it in use throughout the USA. CUC also argued that solar power was inefficient because it got dark at night and the wind didn’t blow constantly so wind turbines were not the answer.

    Since then wind turbines have further been accused of being a danger to bats and birds, with the latest myth being that they are a hazard to aviation.

    I live in rural England. We have massive wind turbines that happily share air space with not only the local bird population but also the numerous fast jets operated in this area by both the RAF and USAF. Recently local farmers have even started installing their own mini-turbines as a cost-effective solution to remote power supplies.

    Solar panels (both photovoltaic and solar hot water) are common around here with new systems being installed almost daily. I light my garden with a low-voltage system recharged with solar panels, it cost less than putting mains wiring in and works even when (as we have now) there is solid cloud cover during the day.

    In the Cayman Islands you do not even seem to promote the use of energy saving light bulbs. In the UK it is completely different. My power provider (we have a choice) actually sends out material and supplies simple monitoring equipment to encourage customers to cut their energy bills. A recent energy survey on my property included a suggestion that I install solar panels.

    The excuses have gone on too long. This is 2012 not the 1950s and you need to move on, not only by allowing full net metering, with no restrictions, but also by making duty concessions on genuine alternative energy equipment. It might also be worth considering temporarily cutting duty on modern, energy-efficient equipment to encourage people to replace old appliances and to place mandatory energy consumption standards on future imports of electrical goods.

  2. I fully agree with Mr. Glidden. Here in the USA Net Metering is working and has been working for years. We do have New Jersey State and Federal incentives, which lowers the initial cost of the Installation. One thing to note is that New Jersey’s Sun Hours per day yearly average is only 4.21 hrs. Where as Miami’s is 5.62 which is 35% more. I could not find any info on Grand Cayman’s figures but I suspect it is much higher than Miami’s. Therefore it is even more economical.
    With Net Metering we now have Companies installing Solar Panels on homes, businesses and Government buildings at no cost to the owners for a 20 year contract with the customers paying a monthly fee of around US .11/kw of used solar generated Electricity. It’s a win- win situation. No up front costs, no maintenance costs for 20 Years!
    I definitely would install Solar Panels on my Home in North Side if CUC had Net Metering .
    Vince Macaluso, North Side Grand Cayman and Avalon, NJ

  3. Working to a sustainable economy! Keep it coming. It is never too late to do the right thing. The commenter Mac gives us an example of how it works in the US, no need to remake the wheel, I am sure they have all the regulations, policy and procedures for the Energy provider and consumer already in place. Instead of asking CUC to tell us what they will let us do in their proposal. Government should tell CUC what we are going to do in ours..

    We need to get that contracting office up and running to help with drafting proposal and specifications.


    New ones are the size of a hottub. Use low grade uranium.
    Are ENCASED in cement. And buried underground. There is zero chance of radiation leaks, and it will offer the islands 10 cents a kilowatt hour. The only way the uranium can be changed, is, it has to be undug, brought to a location, the cement has to be broken open. And uranium replaced. Then it’s re cemented, and reburied.

    It’s what oil and gas uses for electricity in remote parts of the world.

    And one mini nuke the size of a hottub, will power 20,000 homes!

    Do the research, it’s on google.

  5. CUC is protecting its profits. Thats the bottom line. Almost any alternative energy works in Cayman because of the sky high rates we pay, with most capable of being paid back in 5-10 years and some within 3 years.

    Leave the hotels and industrial users to CUC. Lets get bulk alternative generation going on where we can and pay CUC a few cents a KWh for the distribution and give the consumer a break.

    All we need is for CUC to get out the way. Go CG, its time CUC started to pay.

  6. I am not 100% certain, but I think renewable energy sources (like solar panels) are currently duty free, so government is offering incentives in that regard. Net metering is a step in the right direction, so I applaud government’s effort to make this happen, BUT it’s a small pebble in a big pond.

    What Cayman really needs is COMPETITION for CUC. Why is this so difficult? I remember when they said Cayman was better off with one telephone company too, and Cable Wireless was Cayman’s salvation. Well, ATT entered our market (soon after Digicel,) and rates were cut in half overnight. Half people, and they were still profitable! It goes to show how profitable these monopolies can be. Have you seen the quarterly statements from CUC? Their profits are staggering!

    Everyone benefits from competition. Government should at least entertain a bid from another electric company to enter Cayman? A small nuclear or uranium power plant would offer lower emissions (or zero emissions,) are suitable for a small island like Cayman, are proven safe, and could slash our electric bills overnight. It wouldn’t cost government anything, but could improve the lives of everyone.

    We need to think long-term and short-term. I guess this subject doesn’t draw a crowd like a protest rally does, but the politican who pulls this off will certainly have my vote for a long time to come.

  7. Mac

    that is a really good point.

    We have the same solar energy scheme in the UK. Nothing up front and the installer recovers the costs from the power sold back to the grid over 20 years.

    CUC could do that rather than buying more generators.

    And on that subject. CUC do not actually need to use diesel in their newer generators because they are multi-fuel and can be run on LPG or other alternative fuels. Although it is a non-renewable fuel, LPG is a particularly attractive option because it is cheap, very clean and substantially reduces engine wear – I am just about to have my car converted to run on it.

  8. @ Big Berd, Here are a few links below to information regarding pocket nuclear reactors, backyard or mini nukes.

    It seems that there are at least 3 Companies, Toshiba, Hyperion Power and NuScale Power, that claim to have this type of technology available. I could not find any evidence of any constructed and currently operating backyard nukes however.

    Toshiba has been in the process of trying to install their 4S 10 MW pocket reactor in the small Alaskan town of Galena since 2004 as a demonstration project. The reactor is not scheduled to be reviewed for certification by US authorities until 2012.

    Hyperion’s reactor is apparently 25 MWe in size and costs US 25M. That works out to US 1M per MW. I believe they are not schedule for certification until 2015. NuScale isn’t projecting an operational power plant until 2018.

    The Christian Science Monitor article (link below) gives a good overview of backyard nukes and the issues related to them. The Alaskan Journal article (link below) describes the Galena case. And there are links to technical information on small nukes in general and the companies trying to sell them.

    It is quite interesting technology and there may be potential in the medium to long term. But at present it is very speculative and there are many variables that make this technology questionable for the Cayman Islands. Not the least being that it would introduce something to the country that could potentially make it uninhabitable should something unforeseen happened. I suppose it is a low probability, but probable nonetheless. Nothing is foolproof.

  9. MLA, Arden McLean needs to be better educated. The CUC FITS program is a real joke… Lighthouse Point’s 10 condo’s each with solar power (15k/condo) generates over 4 times more power than we can consume during the 10 hours of daylight and with NET metering we could supply the grid with our excess power, lowering CUC bottom line cost. At night each condo runs off battery banks which are recharged by 9AM the next morning. Lighthouse Point has almost 3 years of data to show Cayman, solar power is more than worth the investment. Solar power is CUC’s competition.

  10. It should not be just about renewables. Independent power production using diesel fired generator set(s) where there is also a steam and hot water demand, like a resort or hospital, is very cost effective and will lower the amount of diesel consumption overall. CUC dumps their gen set exhaust, (waste heat), to the atmosphere whereas a resort or hospital would use the free energy to make steam for the laundry facility and preheat the city water for commercial hot water production. Hence, lowering the amount of imported diesel required.

Comments are closed.