$15M for low income solar panels

1,500 homes would get help with utility bills

solar panel lg

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush announced plans Tuesday to install solar panels in 1,500 existing homes of people with low incomes to help lower their 
utility bills. 

He made the announcement during a news conference Tuesday, during which he also revealed that Joey Ebanks would take up the reins as the new managing director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority on 1 May. 

Mr. Bush said he planned to request $15 million in the next budget to implement the programme, which he said would start in the last quarter of this year. 

In his role as the new head of the regulatory body, Mr. Ebanks, who worked until recently as CUC’s manager of training, safety and environment, will also chair a new committee established to help introduce the so-called Renewable Energy Programme. Other members include Jim Knapp, who has an alternative energy home, member of the Electricity Regulatory Authority Michael Herland, and government backbencher Cline Glidden, who is a counsellor within the Ministry of Works on the issue of electricity. 

Mr. Bush said the programme would “save 70 per cent for 1,500 homes, but also provide between 150 to 200 net new job opportunities for Caymanians”. 

The premier said the government would also examine how government buildings, such as the Government Administration Building, which he said had a Caribbean Utilities Company bill of $100,000 a month, could be included in the initial renewable energy programme. 

People who will benefit from the programme will be chosen from data from the Economic and Statistics Office, the Electricity Regulatory Authority and the Department of Social Services “in order to target those in most need of assistance”, Mr. Bush said. 

“We will ensure that the myth is broken that renewable energy is only for the very wealthy and elite. This is a programme for all,” he added. 

Earlier this month, the government passed a motion, brought by Mr. Glidden, to take steps to eliminate 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. 

Mr. Bush said he had spoken to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor and visiting United Kingdom Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham about a renewable energy programme and had received “a positive response from the UK government regarding our efforts on behalf of encouraging renewable energy use and the sustainability of our business community”. 

He added: “There are still details to be worked out, just how the budget will finance it. I don’t believe in borrowing, but if it’s $15 million I have to borrow to fund the programme, the United Kingdom, I think, will look favourably on it.”
No company has yet been chosen to supply the solar panels, the premier said, adding the process of choosing a company would be done in the coming months. 

Mr. Knapp said social services and the Electricity Regulatory Authority would find people most in need as the early participants of the programme. He said he anticipated that with net metering, people who are chosen for the programme would not go off the grid, but could create energy during the day when they are at work and use it back when they return or need it. 

Currently, Cayman does not have a net metering programme. 

Mr. Glidden said CUC would have to be involved “in some level of negotiations that will have to take place”, as the programme was dependent on a net metering system. He said he expected those negotiations to be completed by the time solar panels are installed at the first homes as part of the programme. 

According to CUC, however, the utility company has not been formally advised by the government or the Electricity Regulatory Authority about any change in the law that would allow for net metering and has also not been formally advised of the proposed solar panel programme.  

The company has submitted a proposal to the Electricity Regulatory Authority on revision of the current Feed-In Tariff system rate structure. That system was a revised version of the consumer owned renewable energy programme and its one-year pilot scheme, in which homeowners or business owners using alternative energy could sell 100 per cent of the energy they produced to CUC at 37 cents per kilowatt hour and buy back power from the grid at the retail cost. 

It was also announced at the news conference that a draft of the long-awaited national energy policy has been completed and would be put out to public consultation. That draft policy has not yet been made public, but Mr. Bush said it included a push towards the use of renewable energy. 

solar panel

Solar panels use light energy from the sun to generate electricity. – PHOTO: FILE

1 COMMENT

  1. This article begs way too many questions and I’ll leave that for others to ask.

    But, for me, the first one that jumped to mind is who decides and by what criteria which 1,500 low income family homes will be chosen (should this programme ever get off the ground considering there is no money!)?
    I hope it doesn’t become district heavy because there are ‘poor’ everywhere including those on our Sister islands of Little and Brac.
    I know a cute old couple on Little who could use a 100,00 solar panel array.

    Food for thought.

  2. Banana Republic, MCKEEVA BUSH SHOULD STEP DOWN. He is under 3 criminal investigations,representing Cayman, and since he has been Premier, it has all been more TALK and less ACTION. It has been three years now and not one big project to generate revenue has begun – not one after three years in office! Why is it taken so long to start one project? So now this whole thing about solar panels, to me, sounds like hot air – not to be taken seriously.

  3. By far the dumbest idea!
    Why not invest the money into alternative energy that the whole island can benefit from???
    With approxiamtely 50,000 people on the island a Solar farm can easily be set up that would cost people half of what they are paying to CUC.
    Serious questions have to be asked about the current contract with CUC and why the Caymanian government does not come up with alternative energy ideas.
    This is just a band aid solution by Mr.Bush

  4. All this equates to is 1500 votes for Bush…

    Also the quote by Ebanks We will ensure that the myth is broken that renewable energy is only for the very wealthy and elite. This is a programme for all,

    The rich are paying for it!!!

  5. Let’s see 10,000 per home (solar costs more) and 150-200 jobs is inclusive in that price. Not logical. Plus given government is not able to sell assets leaving 19 more million to find. And why only low income? Will they have to pay for maintenance or will government pick up that yearly bill as well. All in all if it goes through will be an eyesore as the mechanicals deteriorate and aren’t able to maintain. Perhaps the 15 million could be given to incentives to anyone who wants to put on solar/wind/alternative energy on a case by case basis in form of a rebate over a number of years. No wait, that would make sense.

  6. You don’t need 3 guesses to know how the decisions will be made regarding whose houses will get the solar panels and whose company will get the contract to supply the panels. What is less clear is whether energy will be conserved by delivering the solar panels at the same time as the appliances.

  7. Does anybody remember what happened the last time Mr. Ebanks was responsible for a government agency? google Joey Ebanks and the Turtle Farm if your memory is too short.

  8. MCKEEVA and Mr. Glidden are starting on the right path in getting Net Metering approved and getting the ERA office focused on taking on the CUC monopoly with the right people on the board is the first phase.

  9. Who is going to pay for the continued upkeep of these panels and the batteries? Or do you just throw them up on the roof call it a day and a waste of money?

  10. Absolutely ludicrous!! I agree with so many others:

    1. Another slimey vote-buying technique!
    2. We know who will select the recipients.
    3. Spending 15 million when the government is already in debt??
    4. It’s a Band Aid solution.

    I’m all for renewable energy, but wouldn’t a better, fairer and more wide-reaching solution be to offer solar panels at a discounted rate? Perhaps the government could buy a huge number of them so that they could be gotten at a much better price than if purchased by individuals. Then the government could discount them SLIGHTLY more for those people who are lower income. Or maybe CUC could give discounted rates for energy used in excess of what people’s solar panels can provide as an incentive to use renewable energy.

    Also, people need to do more to make their homes more energy-efficient. I’m always amazed at people who talk about 700 CUC bills. Simple solutions: insulate the heck out of your attic. Install solar-powered attic fans. Apply white, elastomeric roof sealant (it can be gotten locally at Kool Kotenigs). Weatherstrip your doors. We did all of the above, and our CUC bills barely breach 200, even in the summer.

  11. Sustainability of the nation should look at the whole gambit of essentials.

    Shelter, food, water, electricity.

    I believe all of these areas are being actively pursued by the current government.

    Shelter: Affordable homes.

    Food: Plans to open an additional active trading route with Honduras. (Need to develop more on Island resources) even if it means importing top-soil.

    Electricity: Solar panels. (Need to be supplement with wind power).

    Water: Don’t sell our water authority out. (Fit out basic water supply operation with Alternative energy)

    All government planning should be for the protection and sustainability of its citizens. Good times should be a source of revenue for preparing for bad times.

    The UK has provided us with guidelines which I see as free financial consultation they themselves are using as good financial stewards.

    I know a lot of people may not agree, but those same people jumped on a flight out of here during Hurricane Ivan and did not return until (we) got the toilets flushing again..

  12. Remember when we only had one phone company? Cell phone bills went through the ceiling. Then digicel was allowed to operate in the island and the prices came down drastically in the Island. All of a sudden rates went down and deals and packages came, customer service was the mantra, and benefits to the customer has been ever increasing. A similar approach within the electricity !!! results will be – competitive prices for consumers, better environment, technology, service for customers ….. and I beleive other people will contribute to the list of benefits. This has been proven globally. The government has to make a call similar to how, the rest of the world politicians work.

    Lets go GREEN !!!!!!

  13. Joey quits CUC to run Turtle Farm, position thanks to the PPM, has a good time(lots of drinks and smokes), UDP discredit Joey just prior to the last election- releasing information on mismanagement at Turtle farm, bar tab, personal loans and the mysterious 60,000 cash repayment, Joey loses, gets kicked out of the PPM , friends support him and give him a job at CUC, he works on a commission not in the interest of CUC,while employed by CUC, UDP give him a plum position at the electricity authority (CUC’s regulator)- so he won’t run in the next election, position is contrary to the interests of CUC and it’s shareholders….. Who are Joey’s friends? UDP, PPM, CUC….. I guess it depends on who is picking up the tab!

  14. To those talking about buying votes. What good can a politician do that will not get him votes? I guess we should vote for a politician when they do nothing, that way he cant be accused of buying votes.

    While he didnt get them out of the red, Joey did good for Boatwains Beach and knew how to draw a crowd. The current boss at Turtle Farm laid off dozens of people and while they maybe, and i doubt it, making a profit now with doubled turtle meat prices while the saltwaterlagoon and predator tank are disgustingly substandard. Check it out on a Saturday now. Its a tourist trap.

    Good luck to Joey in the new position, hes smart, innovative and strong willed, something a person needs to succeed at that level.

  15. I hate to criticise any move towards alternative energy but this makes no sense.

    From personal experience I know that the first priority with people on low incomes, most of whom tend to be tenants, is to properly manage the existing electricity supply – they need education, proper insulation, energy efficient appliances and if necessary government subsidies to provide these items.

    The problem that people on low incomes, not just in the Cayman Islands, have to deal with is that they tend to live in properties that are basically energy inefficient.

    Most are structures that cannot viably support solar panels, many will need extensive re-wiring to handle net metering.

    This is putting the proverbial cart before the horse.

    Let the people with money invest in solar panels and net metering, that should bring down power bills and benefit the people on low incomes.

    Use this money to replace old a/c units, fridges, whatever and to install low energy bulbs or other power saving devices.

    Bottom line on this is that if you put solar panels on property that is energy inefficient what do you get? The same amount of wasted energy but now some of it has just cost CIG roughly CI10K to generate it.

    Good headline – lack of joined-up thinking at ERA.

  16. Excellent points as usual John, particularly the point that people on a low income tend to be tenants, but Big Mac is facing a difficult election and delivering the marl is a long time Cayman tradition. At this point Mac will drive the truck himself if he has to.

  17. John Caymer

    It’s amazing how the simplest solutions are the best solutions.
    I’m glad you pointed it out.

    Insulation, low consumption electrical appliances, weather-stripping, etc, even installing a single energy efficient light bulb is a step in the right direction!

    Yet, Govt decides to start with a 15,000,000 million dollar solar project that will be fraught with problems and is ignoring the problems/challenges of reducing over-consumption and conservation of energy at the base level, the home.

    Use the little money we have firstly to educate to the people, provide incentive programs to proceed in that direction, and then worry about solar power.

    KISS…keep it simple stupid.

  18. Lots of interesting comments made in response to this article but the most interesting thing about it is that most people dont seem to recognise it and the press conference from which it emanated for what it really is. When someone does not want the focus to be on an issue for long they immediately think of ways to shift attention from that issue.

    The real issue of the day is the shocking situation with the Premier being subject to a total of three criminal investigations and his arrogant refusal to step aside to protect the three most important offices in elected government from being tarnished and to minimise the reputational damage to the country that is underway and growing. It is an immense shame on our homeland.

    This article is designed to distract you from that awful fact. There will be no solar panels for the people. They are trying to blind you with BS.

  19. I promise if i get some free solar on my shack i will spend the money i save on beer cigs and gunja Please dont build a solar farm it may attract aliens from other planets …

  20. I like the idea of government investing in solar for their own buildings, but can’t support the idea of installing panels for private individuals, poor or not.
    Even if you can justify the selection process (which you can’t), solar panels are a long term investment, generally 5 years up front for a 20 year return. Why put expensive panels on a substandard house? Focus on the new government building, schools, etc. first!

  21. Solar pannels need to be on the NEW government building and such! You would think the Premier would use the expenditure where it MIGHT eventually SAVE the GOVT expenses. Seems to me that he, as usual, is putting the cart in front of the horse! Not that long ago that our Premier, as he is called today, was insistant that Cayman had NO homeless, unemployed or needy. Now he wants to spend 15 million on solar pannels for the low (no) income…is he gonna build them houses too?? Kinda hard to live under a solar pannel!
    Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize with the struggling, I am one too, but don’t think our ‘deficit’ can handle any more new spending and WHY are we paying ALL of the overhead for some anyway? Shouldn’t there be some encouragement to ‘earn’ a living???
    And furthermore, who will maintain these solar installations, for how long? This is one of the most extravagant, ridiculous, obviously self-benefitting plan the Premier could envision..yes, it’s election year, the antie is as priceless as usual…this is simply another distractions from the real issues that involve the Premier ‘marl’ for the upcomming elections, after all, it happens every four years, nuh?

  22. Do you know how many: LED bulbs, Occupancy/vacancy sensors, phantom power cut off devices, weather stripping, insulation, window glazing etc items could be had with 15 million CI dollars? I am positive that this money invested in saving electricity would outweigh generating electricity many, many times over and could potentially assist many more than 1500 households. This is a ridiculous proposal in my view.

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