Renewable energy company disputes OfReg over pricing

This rendering shows the OTEC floating power plant planned for North Side. Environmental impact studies of the project will be submitted to the Environmental Assessment Board in the coming weeks.
This rendering shows the OTEC floating power plant planned for North Side.

The renewable energy company Cayman OTI released a statement on Thursday disputing the characterization by the Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg) that a proposed floating power plant in North Side would not produce energy at a reasonable price.

Cayman OTI’s statement was in response to a Finance Committee meeting in the Legislative Assembly last month, where OfReg Acting CEO Gregg Anderson was asked about why Cayman OTI’s proposed ocean thermal energy conversion project has not been implemented yet. Cayman OTI officials said in May 2017 that they hoped to hold public meetings that year to receive approval to begin the project’s 36-month construction process.

However, Mr. Anderson said in Finance Committee that the rates proposed by Cayman OTI will not give consumers the best value for their money.

He added that this type of power production, ocean thermal energy conversion, has not been successfully deployed on a commercial level. The system works by exploiting the temperature difference between the warm surface water and cold water piped from 4,000 feet below the surface to power ammonia-driven steam turbines to create electricity.

There is an ocean thermal energy conversion plant in Hawaii, but that is heavily subsidized by government. “So Cayman would be the ‘guinea pig’ for the technology,” Mr. Anderson said.

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Premier Alden McLaughlin chimed in during Mr. Anderson’s statement, saying that “it is a complete and utter myth that somehow the use of renewables reduces the cost of electricity. It doesn’t, at least not that I’ve seen.

“There may be other virtues, but not what you’re going to pay for the generation of each kilowatt hour of electricity,” the premier said during the Nov. 22 meeting.

Mr. Anderson added that his office has not outright rejected Cayman OTI’s plans, but that OfReg wants the company to propose rates that are more acceptable for consumers.

On Thursday, Cayman OTI released its statement disputing Mr. Anderson’s assertions.

Cayman OTI said that it has offered an energy price that is “substantially lower” than the current rates incurred by Cayman consumers for energy.

“Cayman OTI has offered to provide further reductions through substantially lower capacity charges as diesel generating units are retired,” the company said.

Cayman OTI added that OfReg accepted the company’s proposed pricing in June. However, the Caribbean Utilities Company later contested such pricing based on its Integrated Resource Plan, which was commissioned in August 2016 to study energy and market trends for the next 30 years.

Cayman OTI said it is still waiting to receive the Integrated Resource Plan in order to compare its proposed pricing with that projected by the Caribbean Utilities Company.

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  1. Premier McLaughlin statement, that renewable energy does not reduce the cost of electricity is 100% wrong. For 9 years we have lived in a solar powered home and it has saved us over CI$ 400.00/month. That means $43,000 we have saved over 9 years. The cost of installing this solar array on our home cost just over $10,000. Bottom line, renewable energy does reduce the cost electricity.
    Another cost savings we have used is by buying a hybrid car three years ago. Our Prius gets over 60 miles/gallon saving us $65/month at the pump. This has saved us over $2,500.00 over the last 3 years, Plus, the import duty on this hybrid car was only 15%.
    Renewable energy is a proved cost savings and should be embraced by government.