EDITORIAL – Power lines: Our stance on ‘green’ energy

We (and no doubt our readers) were cheered by all aspects of the headline that appeared in Thursday’s Cayman Compass: “Oil, solar contribute to decrease in CUC power bills.”
The worldwide drop in wholesale fuel prices has been a primary cause of a similar decline in local electricity prices. (One commentator pointed out recently that a barrel of oil costs less than the barrel it is shipped in!)

At the same time, solar energy is becoming more ubiquitous on Cayman’s rooftops, with CUC’s Customer Owned Renewable Energy program nearing its production cap of 4 megawatts, and Cayman’s first utility-scale solar project expected to be commissioned east of Bodden Town in October. It will have an anticipated production capacity of 5 megawatts.

The downward trend in oil prices, which is expected to continue in the near future, is largely based on supply and demand with a distorting dose of geopolitics, price supports (think ethanol subsidies in the U.S.) and regulatory overreach figured in. In any case, what consumers love (lower fuel prices) and the stock markets hate (lower profits for the oil companies) should be regarded as volatile and temporary.

On the other hand, while alternative energy sources, such as solar, may require a hefty upfront investment, once installed, the cost of production is comparatively predictable.

Perhaps because we have opined on this page that the Cayman Islands government (and we as residents) would be wasting our time, energy and money in focusing our precious resources on combating global warming (since whatever we do will have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the matter), it might be presumed that we are likewise opposed to renewable energy.

Not so.

We in fact believe that all forms of energy production — diesel, natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, wave power, etc. — deserve equal footing and should compete on a level playing field.

Generally speaking, we are proponents of the adoption of new technologies, in any sector, whenever it makes economic sense.

Further, because the availability of affordable energy is so vital to our standard of living, we are in favor of government eliminating all taxes, duties and fees on conventional and renewable sources of energy. The lower the barrier to entry into Cayman’s energy marketplace, the better it is for companies and consumers.

The government has made a good start in one area, reducing the duty on diesel fuel from 75 cents per gallon to 25 cents. Now it’s time to take the tariff to zero.

Getting rid of the duty on diesel, which powers the generators at CUC, will return money to all of us in a direct, efficient and meaningful way. The positive impact will be felt not only on monthly electric bills for households, but secondarily by reducing the cost of goods and services provided by businesses.

Some may accuse us of being enamored with oil. That’s not entirely untrue. After all, oil fuels the world’s economy — and Cayman’s.

Nevertheless, on islands as small as Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands, we have a unique opportunity to be bold in experimenting with energy alternatives. Can you imagine the positive international publicity the Brac might receive if it were the first island in the world to go to 100 percent electric vehicles? Being small does have its advantages.

Frankly, we are largely agnostic when it comes to the sources of fuel that keep our air-conditioners running and our printing presses humming. We want a reliable supply at a reasonable price. If greener is better, then consider us committed “greenies.”

We consider ourselves environmental pragmatists, not environmental zealots.

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