CUC boss says future of power is solar

| 24/07/2020 | 48 Comments
Cayman News Service
Solar Farm in Bodden Town

(CNS): Whether solar panels in the Cayman Islands should be mainly located on rooftops or on land farms to meet the proposed energy goals may be up for debate, but Richard Hew, the CEO of Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC), is certain that the sun will provide the country’s future power needs. Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, he explained that as battery technology improves and costs fall, solar will soon produce the bulk of local electricity.

Hew also said that, because it is cleaner than diesel, CUC would likely use liquid natural gas (LNG) as back-up fuel to ensure continuity of service for its generators.

Renewable fuel sources currently still cost more, with the complexities of the CORE programme and the company’s system to allow people to stay on the grid, but in time utility scale solar farms will decrease the cost of generating electricity from the sun.

Hew said that fuel costs may have fallen again, making diesel less expensive, but with new technology, in the long run solar power will be equal to the price of diesel and the cost will be more stable, which will move Cayman away from the “price roller-coaster” of the oil market.

However, Hew warned that the government’s ambitious plan to have three-quarters of the electricity generated by renewables would be a challenge to meet without moving more quickly on bids for utility-sized solar plants, as he argued that rooftop solar is not an efficient way to approach it.

Although the price of land in Cayman is high, Hew indicated that the piecemeal installation of solar panels would reduce costs for those installing them but would increase cost for those who did not have access to their own panels.

See Hew at PAC on CIGTV below:

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Category: Business, Government oversight, Politics, Private Sector Oversight, utilities

Comments (48)

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  1. Rick says:

    This about says it all. CUC is making government policy. With domestic battery storage, solar and wind generation, the CIs can transform the energy sector with good government policy which supports households to go off-grid or in collaboration with CUC. If households are incentivised to invest in battery storage and solar/wind generation, CUC can play a critical role in this future but they would rather continue the status quo and cream the residents. They will continue to get away with this because of the corrupt relationship that exists between shareholders, government and the company. The interesting thing is that technology is likely to make CUC irrelevant in the near future. Soon any home will be able to affordably power itself independent of the grid. I wonder where CUC will be then?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting about face by CUC.

    In 2007 they were installing multi-fuel generators that could run full-time on LNG but chose not to do it and arguing that solar panels were worthless because the sun went down at night. They also opposed grid metering claiming (completely falsely) that the equipment needed to operate it safely wasn’t available. I wonder what’s happening here?

  3. Annie says:

    How do those solar panels fare in a hurricane?

  4. Anonymous says:

    More like the “Boss of future power is CUC”.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Solar energy may very well be the future, but solar panels certainly are not.

    Let’s see you run the Ritz Carlton or the MRI at GT hospital on solar panels and batteries, then let’s look at the cost of doing it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Use solar during the day and cuc at night and to top up when cloudy. You can still save money without pushing juice onto the grid. Wind damage and Expensive insurance are a problem.

    • Rick says:

      Wrong. Solar in the day to run house/business and charge batteries, and batteries at night. No CUC. Grid sized battery storage is now a reality. Solar is almost on par with the most efficient fuel generating systems and getting cheaper by the day. More importantly, domestic solar generation and battery storage will make CUC irrelevant very soon. You can install solar generation and storage now at almost affordable rates for most homes, if the government and banks will see the light (but they are still using oil and cannot see well).

  7. Anonymous says:

    Solar and battery technology is rapidly changing. Whatever system you put in today is obsolete the next. Not wise for a large scale project.

    • Anonymous says:

      The first lead-acid battery was made more than 150 years ago, and 99% of the cars on the road today still have lead-acid batteries. Do you equate that to rapidly changing battery technology? Yes, there is a need for more energy dense storage devices, but there are no major breakthroughs happening in laboratories that we can expect to see on the market anytime soon.

      Solar technology is the same, there have been no multiple increases in the amount of energy generated from the same solar panels, made from the abundantly available Silicon.

      Cheaper energy storage would be nice, but it still needs to be safe, and what we have now is still vastly superior for the environment than burning fossil fuels.

  8. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    The solar panels on my house broke even almost exactly 5 years after they were installed. I’ve now recovered my investment and get free electricity going forward.

    The government should make solar panels mandatory for all new buildings (residential and commercial).

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t stop there, the government should make it mandatory that you become a vegan and designate that you can only consume 2 liters of water per day.

    • Anonymous says:

      Give us some details so we can compare apples to apples: What brand, how big capacity, do you have batteries, what price did you pay.

      • ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

        The system has 30 250 watt panels and cost around $20k. I do not have batteries.

    • Rick says:

      Don’t agree with mandatory but support incentives. The benefits are not just dollars (and I do not believe in Global Warming). It is also environmental, as in less contaminants and better economy in using available solar.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Until commercial fusion generators are a thing. Then it’s free energy after that.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Put windmills on all the old dyke roads.

  11. Anonymous says:

    CUC will be redundant…. In 15 years everyone will have a battery on their house, Internet will be beamed down by Tesla or Amazon and all the telephone power polls will be coming down.

    They will try to fight technology but they will fail.

    Our politicians should start by asking the first most important question… Who AM I?

    • Anonymous says:

      Drivel. Starlink might be up and running but until everyone converts to offgrid the power poles, and cuc, are going nowhere… in 15 years power provision in Cayman will look exactly the same!

      • Rick says:

        Maybe. But I am one resident that will not be using CUC for domestic power consumption within the next twelve months, guaranteed. And if I open a business, which I might, CUC will not be in the business plan. Meanwhile, I will do everything in my power, including funding some of my people, to get them off CUC dependence.

  12. Anonymous says:

    How much does it cost to replace one solar panel? Nobody makes solar panels that are hurricane proof. NOBODY. For the cost of installing them and then the time to break even on that cost, I would never consider solar.

  13. Anonymous says:

    What we don’t need is committing our open space to Solar Panel Farms. Mass solar is a ridiculous concept for Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      CUC is supporting this because they are going to buy Land on the cheap and sell it back to the people. Those solar farms kill all the trees and life on it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Like Macdonalds…. location, location, location

      • Rick says:

        Solar farms are a bad idea. There is no need for them either. Roofs and building sides. CUC will not push that idea because it would mean significantly reducing their share of power generation and supply. Right now I would guess that less than 2% of all buildings in Cayman has solar generation and even the ones that do, have less than they could. Why do we need solar farms? Does the government not have a huge interest in ’empowering’ its people?????? I guess they are mostly benefiting from the CUC relationship because I do not see anything that show this or any other government acting in the interest of the people.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow, bots much.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Batteries. Storage. Think about it a little (or don’t you need lights at night?)

  15. A bad deal is no deal says:

    And the future of how solar power owners deal with CUC is Net Metering. The future of renewable energy in Cayman is diversification. Solar is not the silver bullet. Just because CUC have developed a cushy plan to exploit solar providers without any push back from a pandering regulator does not make it the be all and end all. There are other technologies out there that CUC is and has suppressed through its back channels with the regulator. There are very clear signs that the majority of home owners in Cayman are not buy into solar and that is ROI. Net Metering whether CUC likes it or not will determine the future of solar for the masses in Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a producer you may like Net Metering but as your consumer neighbour I certainly do not. You need the distribution wires to enable me to buy your solar power. So you have to contribute to that cost. Hence you get a wholesale price for you produced power and I pay retail to buy it. If you got paid retail (net metering) then I would have to pay retail PLUS distribution. So I pay more so you can enjoy net metering.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the cushy plan to exploit solar providers? The home solar providers on the system now have a sweet deal with their rates subsidized by others. Net Metering is a big mistake as again it will have the non-producers, usually the small consumers who cannot afford the $40,000 solar system pay for those who can. Doesn’t sound fair to me. Regulators and politicians in the United States are now coming to terms with that fact.

  16. Anonymous says:

    We can be sure that the future of CUC is monopolistic price gouging with CIG-guaranteed 30% consumer margins. Maybe that’s all that really matters, and not the “how” mechanics of the consumer ripoff itself.

    There is something wrong with our renewable formula when per kWh costs of near 320+ sunny day a year weather, with latest generation (duty-free) PV panel tech and economies of scale (from >$0.28 per kWh down to $0.06 per kWh in 2017), yields lower ROI than running imported high-cost diesel in 20 year old generators. Everywhere else on the planet, PV cost economics per kWh are the opposite and the spread is widening.

    Further, solar power influx at peak demand time – around 12pm – has a stabilising effect on the grid but also greatly reduces profit margins for power providers, who in the past were able to charge the highest prices at this time of the day as supply was scarce. That’s the crux of the matter. CUC will install this capacity to save themselves money, avoid having to buy private renewable power via grid metering, and increase their margins while spinning this as a good news story for consumers.

    • Anonymous says:

      No shortage of experts talking out of their butt hole. I don’t work for CUC, nor do I own shares in the company, but you have some many things wrong that it’s a waste of time to try correcting them.

    • Anonymous says:

      It DOES seem that CIG and CUC work hand-in-hand to fleece the consumers! Is there such a thing as an honest Caymanian MLA? If so, please stand up for Cayman!

      • Anonymous says:

        I knew a few men with names like Connolly, Panton, and Archer, but they are unfortunately not there now.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not being a current member of the legislative assembly does not automatically imply the person was a honest, fair and transparent politician.

        • Anonymous says:

          If they were so good they would still be in the house. They ran a poor election and they lost. And they can stay lost. We need some new crooks to run next year.

      • Anonymous says:

        There is a contracted minimum profit margin, no competition, and no other entrants allowed. They have expanded into data transmission using utility pole infrastructure.

    • Anonymous says:

      And this is after they charge us to build/create the solar infrastructure then charge us more to use it!

    • Anonymous says:

      You miss the point. The private renewable power that CUC is presently buying from rooftop solar is driving up the cost of energy for all other users on the grid. Utility scale solar properly done whether by CUC or others will put the same clean energy on the grid at half the cost so that all consumers can benefit.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s cleaner to use the sun than burn diesel, but minimum CUC margins are guaranteed by CIG, so any production savings are not necessarily savings for consumers. They are guaranteed a return on building out their infrastructure – so we get screwed with every movement. Good, bad or otherwise. Knowing that, I’m not expecting a cheaper utility bill.

      • Anonymous says:

        The 800 pound gorilla is actually CUC’s stranglehold on power generation and distribtion on island, the limitaitons put on solar on the island are nothing short of pure nonsense. You are limited to 10KW per household extending that program to 40KW would make sense but would severely damage CUC’s bottom line.

        There are technologies that would allow storage for solar (saltwater batteries for example) that scale up nicely at the utility level for example, Tesla’s GigaBattery as well.

        If ever there was to be an honest conversation about the presence of solar on island , CUC shall be kept away from that conversation , they have proven time and again to operate in bad faith regarding compensation of solar production , and have shown a poor attitude in terms of pole access (see the struggle over fiber internet on the island).

        As to your comment of solar driving up the cost of energy for other users, I would love some clarification , most of the solar panels on rooftops are self financed without CUC being part of the installation in any shape or form, rooftop producers are heavily impacted by the “fuel charges” applied and last but not least the limitation to 10KW makes sure that unless your place is unoccupied you still generate less than is necessary to power your home! CUC’s feed quality is nothing short of … dismal …

        You have to UPS every piece of electronics as in a data center mission critical operations and i am talking online UPSes that have a constant fixed draw you cannot blame anyone else regarding this bit.

        • Anonymous says:

          The rate paid for solar production under the CORE agreement is set at a higher level than the actual cost of alternative sources, so it costs more and is subsidized by everyone without solar. If it were a comparative cost, it would pay around $0.08-0.13 based on the fuel rates over the past year or so. Don’t see anyone clamoring to put in solar at that rate with the going local cost of $3-5 per watt installed. What’s that tell you?

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