The Caribbean Utilities Company expects to need up to another 60 megawatts of power in the next 30 years, well more than the 100 MW it produces now, representatives of the utility company said this week.
The company is working with consultants to study options to add capacity while moving away from diesel generators and cutting carbon emissions to meet targets laid out in the U.N. Paris agreement on climate change.
CUC and the company’s consultants from Pace Global gave a public update on the study Wednesday, about halfway through the planning process. Consultants discussed the options for solar, wind, fossil fuels and other technologies.
Gary Vicinus, with Pace, said the investments guided by this study will last 20 to 40 years. “You have to look at the implications of those decisions over time,” he said.
Detailing the priorities set by CUC, Mr. Vicinus said, “Lots of people look for lowest cost.” But, he said, “cost is not the only important factor.”
He said CUC’s three factors for power generation in the coming decades are reliability, rate stability and environmental stewardship.
CUC’s current diesel-based power generation, for example, is subject to the volatility of the global oil market and prices for diesel can change quickly.
In the first phase of the study, the consultants looked at dozens of options for power generation, from harnessing wave power to burning natural gas. The consultants ruled out building a small nuclear reactor in Cayman, citing cost and limited commercial experience with the technology. They also crossed wave and tidal power off the list and using seawater for cooling.
Ocean thermal energy conversion, a renewable-energy option that pulls heat from the sea, is still on the table as consultants study the long-term possibilities for Cayman.
The team has narrowed the options to six scenarios to judge whether the power system should include electricity storage and meet emission targets. Each of the portfolios includes a combination of wind, solar and including the waste-to-energy plant planned for the landfill in the coming years.
Half of the options the consultants presented would bring Cayman into compliance with the greenhouse gas emission cuts laid out in the Paris agreement, signed by the United States, the European Union, China, India and others.
The Paris agreement sets a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent by 2030, based on 2014 levels.
The consultants said 58 percent of Cayman’s emissions come from power generation, mostly from diesel generators.
Pace’s Anant Kumar said he expects the prices for wind and solar equipment to continue to drop. “Renewables are cheaper,” he said, and should generate enough power to supply the island’s base load. Fuels like diesel or natural gas could be used to power peak times when energy use on the island spikes.
CUC has plans for a solar farm in Bodden Town, and site preparation is under way. The company’s third-quarter filing notes the solar project is behind schedule, but the company states that it expects to finish the 5 MW project in the second quarter of 2017.