CUC will battle in court to keep solar secrets

| 16/04/2024 | 70 Comments
Solar panels outside CUC offices

(CNS): Officials at the Caribbean Utilities Company have told CNS that their decision to challenge the release of two reports that CUC prepared for OfReg relating to the bidding process for future power generation is to protect “commercially sensitive information” that could help competitors in any future bids.

The company also said it was in the best interest of the public that these details remain under wraps. In the face of criticisms over its rates and protected profits, its closeness to the regulator and the way it is controlling access to the grid for domestic green energy, CUC is trying to convince customers that it is seeking to cut light bills and embrace renewables.

Explaining why CUC does not want the reports released after the Ombudsman directed OfReg to release them last month, a spokesperson for the company told CNS that CUC will be taking part in the competitive bidding process for a 23MW solar farm in the coming months. The reports contain information that could help competing bidders gain an unfair advantage over CUC in that process.

“Whilst CUC is, of course, concerned to protect the commercial sensitivity of that information, it is also in the best interests of consumers that the bidding process is truly competitive and that the bid which ultimately succeeds has not been influenced by such information and truly represents the successful bidder’s best offer,” the company said recently in a short statement.

In a longer statement released on Friday, CUC said it was “fully committed to delivering affordable energy solutions that benefit all of our valued customers by creating substantial reductions in fuel factor costs”. It said the soon-to-be operational 20MW battery storage would facilitate more renewable energy on the grid, which will save customers an estimated US$5 million each year with the fuel efficiency it brings.

“We anticipate that our customers will begin to reap the benefits of this project towards the end of this year,” the power firm stated. “We also recognise that utility scale solar energy will significantly lower the fuel charge for customers. Our projections indicate that utility scale solar energy can be delivered at a cost of 10 cents per kilowatt hour or less, representing a substantial reduction compared to the current average cost of 19 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) with diesel generation.”

CUC said it was “eagerly awaiting” the release of the competitive bid for the utility-scale solar project, and has been since OfReg began planning the bidding process in 2019.

“Unfortunately, our Company cannot implement these reductions in fuel factor costs until utility scale solar is implemented, whether by us or another provider. Should CUC win a bidding opportunity, our primary goal is to reduce the fuel factor cost for customers and subsequently, their monthly bill payments. With utility scale solar, fuel factor costs can be reduced by as much as 50%,” the company stated.

CUC has turned to the courts in an effort to keep the two reports, a Cost of Service Study and an Incremental Distributed Solar Study, secret following the decision by the independent Office of the Ombudsman. In contrast to CUC’s claims, Ombudsman Sharon Roulstone had found that releasing the reports would “enhance effective and fair competition given that one party already seems to have an advantage”.

In her ruling directing the reports’ release, she also raised concerns over the apparent conflict of interest with CUC’s involvement in the shaping of this anticipated bid. However, the company has said that, as the owners of the grid, they are obligated under their licence to be involved and have to be consulted.

The release of the reports is of significant public interest as they would have an impact on this process. One covers the details of why CUC claims it has to limit access to the grid for roof-top solar suppliers. CUC has claimed varying reasons over the years for the limited release of access for CORE and DER customers, which is reflected by the fact that in almost eight years and even with the Bodden Town 5MW solar farm, renewable energy still accounts for only 3% of the power generated on Grand Cayman.

CUC has taken a conflicting position over its support for domestic renewables. It continues to say it supports roof-top solar even as it continues to do battle with the industry association CREA, calling for the government to prioritise utility-scale solar over domestic. It has blamed both CREA and OfReg for the delay in rolling out more renewable energy in Cayman.

CREA had opposed an unsolicited proposal CUC made to the government via OfReg after it purchased land to build a solar farm because of the lack of competition in the sector it would have created.

CUC said that while it appreciated “CREA’s advocacy for procedural integrity” ongoing opposition to such projects impedes the progress of renewable energy adoption. CUC said that as an early member of CREA, it actively participated in collaboration and knowledge-sharing, including presentations at various Caribbean Transitional Energy (CTEC) conferences and CREA meetings.

“We still share similar goals with respect to increasing renewable energy for Grand Cayman and, therefore, would like to publicly ask CREA to engage in a constructive dialogue on how we can work together to make low-cost clean energy accessible to all residents,” CUC said in a statement.


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Category: Business, Energy, Science & Nature, utilities

Comments (70)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    CUC continues to speak out of both sides of their mouth on domestic solar. They only seem to care about the projects that will make them money, not the projects we actually need.

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    • Anonymous says:

      CUC continues to invoice consumers >$KYD20 per Watt by pursuing expensive utility-scale solar shams engineered to benefit entrenched third party corporate fleecers, and they produce almost no meaningful power at the cost per watt agreed. Case in point, the 2017 so called 5MW 20 acre Bodden Town solar farm by Entropy (perfect name) producing less than 3MW which was handed over to BMR Energy (Virgin Group) earlier this year. This was originally marketed to consumers that it would deliver power to equivalent of 1600 households, but the reality was closer to 800, maybe. CUC and OfReg don’t care. This is Cayman Islands, the land of the scam, and always on the dumb and silent end consumer. The CIG tells CUC how much solar it needs to acquire (because they don’t have internal skill to do this themselves), and they go out and buy it. There are no consumer value for money tests in this decision corridor.

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  2. Anon345 says:

    When you have a monopoly you have almost free reign to do whatever you like. You can fix prices, introduce new tech, lobby to change laws etc.

    CUC continue to bang on about everything they are doing to ‘go green’ but the list of countries by % renewable below paints a stark picture. Cayman is basically last in the world.

    Think about that. CUC can make or break policy on renewables and we are last on the list. It’s not like we don’t have much or wind here.

    They are either lying or simply not telling us the truth to protect their shareholder’s monetary interests.

    It’s time to call time on the gravy train monopoly and open the market up to other providers.

    https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/renewable-energy-by-country

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  3. Anonymous says:

    For a gold plated, retail focused, monopoly to state “…it is also in the best interests of consumers….” is what I would call a complete and utter oxymoron.

    + Smash the CUC monopoly – replace with real competition
    + Separate Generation from Distribution
    + Net Metering Now – get rid of the discredited, hated and fundamentally flawed, CORE.

    We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, rampant inflation and a man-made climate disaster – plain as day for all to see. But yet our incompetent/corrupt/conflicted “leaders” are incapable of doing what is right and what will serve to help address these ills of society, the globe AND… the here and now, in the Cayman Islands.

    CUC – look back at the way the old telecoms went and see your own fate and future. Eventually, distributed solar, wind, green hydrogen and battery technology advancement will render you obsolete. I for one will NOT shed a single tiny tear.

    Good bye and good riddance (in advance), dinosaur.

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    • Anon345 says:

      100% agreed on these measures!

      + Smash the CUC monopoly – replace with real competition
      + Separate Generation from Distribution
      + Net Metering Now – get rid of the discredited, hated and fundamentally flawed, CORE

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  4. Caymanian says:

    Here is the long and short of this.

    CUC has no vested interest in the cost of utilities going down. They are going to slow roll this to hell freezes over ten times.

    They are going to throw all kinds of crap out to see what sticks

    Anyone remember the cost of a call to the USA before we demonopolized C&W? How about how fast we got advancements in digital technology? How about dual way billings when you had to pay to call and receive.

    None of these pricks care about what’s in the country’s well-being. They only know PROFITS.

    We need a government to put their arse to the fire.

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    • Anonymous says:

      …remeber when C&W would freeze you for using “Skype”…data v telephonic….and tthey hadn’t worked ou that the future (actaully, the then “present” for early adopters), was “data” NOT telephones……

      BUT, at least the dogs of competition in the telecoms industry were let loose and we are all much better off today beacuse of it…..

      CUC still stuck in the past with the King Cnuts and the dinosaurs…

  5. Anonymous says:

    The radar was what stopped us getting wind generation. As we appear to no longer have a radar maybe we can make a wind farm

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  6. Richard Arch says:

    I consider that Caymanians have given CUC sufficient protection over the years now and that the company should be expected to operate without any public guarantees.
    The supply of electricity by any interested provider should be the choice of its customers.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Did we forget that We THE PEOPLE paid the post Ivan “Infrastrure Recovery Surcharge”.. so the new poles and lines etc belong to US.
    When other companies pay to use them, the money should be PUBLIC FUNDS!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely – CUC should/should have, purchase(d) adequate insurance for Transmission and Distribution (T&D) lines, funded for it, accessed the alternative risk transfer or the capital markets etc. for that protection.

      BUT NO – why should they, that is an expense that reduces profits, bonuses and dividends. By far better to throw their 800 lbs gorilla weight around and force the residents to pay their rebuild costs with that “sur charge”, which lasted for years on our CUC bills….

      It galls me to this day – CIG were too dim witted/conflicted as shareholders when they agreed to allow CUC to charge us (the surcharge) for CUC’s short termism…we should at least have been owners of the T&D lines OR CUC should be forced to lease the T&D lines from the consumer – a “reverse” CORE programme!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Bury the damn powerlines

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  9. Anon says:

    Any individual who has applied to CUC for Solar permissions over the last 10 years can confirm that CUC have zero commitment to support alternative sources. The process is exhausting and oftentimes fruitless. CUC are now applying the same approach to the bulk supplier process. All is designed to protect the monopoly and the foreign parent company profits. CIG should be actively reviewing how to move away from the monopoly that should never have been renewed and arguably never existed. How much has Fortis benefitted over the years at our expense?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    It is disgusting that CUC claim that utility solar is needed to create generating capacity when they have done everything in their power to either stop or slow down residential solar. Our total renewables are 3% of total generation which is shameful when they have had well over a decade to grow that market.
    What they are saying with this comment is that the only people who should generate power is a utility and they are the only electrical utility! Their monopolistic approach to everything means there is only one course of action available to government. CUC should be split into 2 – network grid and generation.
    Government should take a controlling interest in the network grid and force competition to open up across all forms of generation. CUC cannot be trusted any longer and this refusal to provide the information required by the Ombudsman shows clearly what they really are.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Government has control of the grid for the production of electricity. The control is called OffReg. CUC does not have a monopoly.
      They control who the can produce the electricity.
      They have been dragging their ass for years instead of creating a tender for utility scale solar WITH battery storage.
      CUC has a responsibility to us, the electricity users. to provide a stable source of electricity.
      So maybe if ALL rooftop solar was fitted with batteries to overcome daytime fluctuations and a gradual reduction at evening time to allow a matching increase in diesel generation, maybe more could be added.
      It still does not remove the fact that utility scale solar with battery storage is needed ASAP.
      I for one, do not wish to continue subsidising the current rooftop solar producers.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    ha ha ha…pirates of the caribbean…including political interests! ZZZZZ

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  12. Anonymous says:

    We are going to get a sunlight surcharge for sure.

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  13. Soul Rebel says:

    This is clearly a matter for independent external experts to weigh in on and provide CIG with unbiased professional advice.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Preferably non shareholders

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    • Anonymous says:

      You must be new to the island. That’s not how it works here. CIG just hires a local accounting firm choked full of family members. But it’s all good.

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  14. Anon345 says:

    More promises, less transparency… classic monopolist behaviour

    If and I mean if (in the eyes of a reasonable person) there are commercially sensitive details, then release redacted versions of the reports and then release the clean versions once all bids have been submitted.

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    • Anonymous says:

      As literally the sole licensed electrical supplier in Grand Cayman, for the next 20 years, there are no other bidders. It’s only the exploited consumer public, they seek to hide from. OfReg are helping them. We are overdue for an investigation from one of the many expensive anti-corruption regulatory and compliance agencies we profess to have in place to inquisitors like the FCO, FATF, and OECD. We need some headline arrests for these consumer exploitation enrichment conspiracies to stop, and to demonstrate our agencies are more than window-dressings. Where are the SIPLC and ACC?!? What have they done for us lately?

  15. Solar Ric Flare says:

    Great work further diminishing the public trust for CUC!

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  16. James Whittaker says:

    Let’s be clear about what CUC really means when they state…

    “CUC said that while it appreciated “CREA’s advocacy for procedural integrity” ongoing opposition to such projects impedes the progress of renewable energy adoption.”

    CUC is inferring CREA should not be concerned with procedural integrity thus not object to them using their monopoly tactics to gain advantages over the competitive market (required by law) because it would at least result in a completed solar farm owned and controlled by CUC despite it being uncompetitively attained and illegal.

    This ladies and gents is how a monopoly thinks, and with a straight face defend their monopolistic actions.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Fundamentally different than other unsolicited submissions to OfReg over the past few years for solar projects, including one of your own? The posturing seems a bit hypocritical.

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      • James Whittaker says:

        That’s quite simple and straight forward. It would only seem hypocritical if your loyalty lies with a monopoly instead of the country and you ignore the salient fact that such proposals are never made on the basis of exclusivity or seeking any monopoly protections or advantages; unlike CUC. Hopefully one day you have the courage to not hide behind ‘anonymous’ when you speak in public on these matters. See you soon. Cheers.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Oh? Such proposals were made where the projects would be put out to tender (either developer, contractor, or ownership) to ensure lowest costs to have some semblance of competition?
          If not, I think you’re deluding yourself that it’s not exactly the same as what you rail against. A key difference is that you just use a tiresome set of platitudes to pretend you’re not lobbying for your direct personal business interests.

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        • Anonymous says:

          But you have never mentioned that your company has also presented an unsolicited utility scale solar project to OfReg. So how is your loyalty more to the country than CUC’s?

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          • James Whittaker says:

            More intentional misleading (we used to call that lying when things were not so politically correct.)

            Truth is those were not utility scale projects, those were solar projects where the solar was firstly being self consumed by the customer itself and the “excess” energy was proposed to be sold to CUC at ‘less’ than the cost of diesel (thus lowering the costs of energy for all consumers).

            Ironically to put it out to tender (as CUC suggested) would mean a 3rd party would have to sell that solar energy to the customer (instead of them owning it themselves), we’ll the problem is only one entity has a monopoly license to do that, CUC.

            So putting it out to tender would mean ‘ONLY’ CUC could answer the tender thus defeating the entire point of a competitive tender and entrenching CUCs monopoly further.

            As already noted none of the solar projects have ever sought any monopoly advantages or exclusivity, unlike CUC, and that’s the key difference between every other energy producer and the entity to which you are so very loyal.

            Perhaps the reason I can post this info and my name without any fear (and you won’t when speaking on this issue) is the fact the truth is the best defense. Perhaps one day truth and courage will find you. Cheers.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is it that no other CREA person ever provides a comment to the press? Maybe the press should try to get the thoughts of other regular and board members.

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      • Anonymous says:

        What other members and board??? LOL. CREA is James and James is CREA. Not that the other solar providers don’t think the same…

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        • James Whittaker says:

          You’re all welcome to join CREA and even join the board and let your voices be heard. Our board compromises of 9 members and our membership of dozens of individuals and companies, all of whom are free to always speak their mind. The only member whose membership has ever been denied renewal was CUC (after trying to put all solar companies out of business and most meetings thereafter were about countering their monopolistic actions). Other than that you are free to join and free to speak if you desire to make a difference. http://www.renewablecayman.com

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      • Anonymous says:

        My guess is that not all of them are media trained and they only need one person acting as a figure head instead of other voices muddying their messaging

  17. Anonymous says:

    Things being hidden from the people

    KX aircraft leasing – commercially sensitive
    Barbados route cost – commercially sensitive
    CUC solar – commercially sensitive
    CIG press conferences – non existent

    Anyone care to add to the list?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle farm.
      Pedro sand castle
      Dart deals (too numerous to list)
      Gas boy
      Airport
      Schools
      Kenny’s culinary training centre. 😂😂

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    • Anonymous says:

      DART.

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    • Anonymous says:

      CIFS/RCIPS budgets, internal staffing burn-rates, mission objectives, critical sub-budgets, and public performance reporting standards for thing like the “RCIPS Traffic Unit”, “Coast Guard”, and “Aerial Unit”.

    • Anonymous says:

      KYD$2,000,000,000.00 plus in unfunded healthcare and pensions liabilities. Continued failure by CI Civil Service to keep track of internal spending, procurement process, meet acceptable accounting best practice, and required standards. Perennial renegade ministries that don’t keep Meeting Minutes, update public information sites (even with full-time departments that do that), or publish any government department travel and credit card statements, or other performance or financial reporting. Secret CIG Opportunity URLs that post information/press releases into the cybervoid that the public will never find on their own. That includes DoT promotional campaign videos on You Tube with a couple dozen views.

  18. Anonymous says:

    They gonna get solar power then charge people for fuel and than the energy also.

    tell me has any ones cuc bill gone down in the past 10 years?

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  19. Anonymous says:

    The only thing CUC is committed to is maintaining its monopoly. The grid needs to be separated from CUC for anything to change in the customer’s favour. And of course OfReg need to be investigated by an agency from abroad for collusion with CUC.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    WOW so CUC blatantly admits it is withholding information to protect its own interests! This really isn’t about public interest is it?

    “The reports contain information that could help competing bidders gain an unfair advantage over CUC in that process.”

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    • Anonymous says:

      So you would rather give all these details to DART to help them gain even more advantage?

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    • Anonymous says:

      And by “unfair advantage”, CUC really means, leveling the playing field.

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    • Anonymous says:

      And why not? This is the Cayman Islands where you have the rubber stamp CPA with runaway development, non existent immigration enforcement of laws, police that can not crack down on crime & road law abuse, school systems that fail to teach students and a Premier who does not want to share things with the general public, so what else would you really expect CUC to say?

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    • Anonymous says:

      So if you were bidding on something you would allow your competitors to know about information you have that may help your bid succeed?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Unfair to the monopolist is an utterly unhinged thing to think, let alone say out loud.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Exactly…Thank you… how many years of Monopoly have we played now ? and they are concerned with unfair advantages all of a sudden? And the idiots supporting them here must have purchased shares in the company.

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    • AnonGCM says:

      What unfair advantage? CUC still has the ONLY transmission and distribution network. It would cost any other company 100’s of Millions to create the same plus a generation facility. This is unlikely. So if we get a dozen companies wanting to generate electricity from Solar they will still be required to enter into a Power Purchase agreement with CUC. So tell me again what does CUC have to lose??

  21. George says:

    I must say, I find myself a bit puzzled by all the ongoing debate surrounding this topic.

    CUC has actually presented us with a clear and viable solution that could potentially reduce our bills by a whopping 50%. Not only that, but it would also have a significant positive impact on our island’s CO2 emissions. This is something that would benefit each and every individual living on the island. 

    From where I stand, it appears that CREA and the rooftop solar guys may just be concerned about their own business interests. After all, if we were to implement utility-scale solar, people wouldn’t have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to these companies.

    Let’s be honest, this would only be advantageous for those individuals on the island who can afford such investments.

    I could never afford roof top solar on my house so I’m never going to benefit from CREA’s approach. I say let’s get these solar farms under way ASAP! 

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    • Anonymous says:

      George, you believe in sky fairies as well? I can assure you that any savings will be retained by CUC or passed on as dividends. The consumer will reap absolutely no benefits.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A) Don’t trust the numbers (50% bill reduction, really) put out by unsolicited bids. Be them from CUC or anyone else selling a solar farm. That is why it needs to be an open bid process, where they have to meet the numbers requested not promise pie.

      B) Distributed community solar is more expensive per KWH than industrial solar but has social advantages and is less expensive – to the nation – when you take land cost into account. In places where there is plenty of land, e.g., ‘desert’ areas, near to cities then solar farms make sense. In a place with limited land area and distributed development then distributed rooftop solar as a first choice makes more sense. Or, to put it another way, would you prefer the land have a house & a solar panel on it or just a solar panel?

      Also there are ways to finance distributed solar so that those individuals with properties but without the cash to put in the solar can directly benefit from the national benefit of solar being installed on their property. A bit like the CORE does but more efficiently (or at least less sporadically).

      But doing any of that requires a Government that is committed to the best national solution. Because the CUC way is easier, I’ll give them that.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Precisely, it is a presentation only, not a promise or commitment. It is of no interest to them to make electricity cheaper. They are only considering profits. Do you think a company is going to invest out of the goodness of their heart to make electricity cheaper for the very people it profits from, and a monopoly at that? As long as they own the grid any attempt to provide cheaper power by a third party will be met with tariffs to ensure they maintain profit.

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    • Guido Marsupio says:

      George, you’re not reading carefully or you have an agenda. “CUC has actually presented us with a clear and viable solution that could potentially reduce our bills by a whopping 50%” is not what they said. It’s just 50% reduction in the fuel surcharge. Take a look at your bill and see how much of the total bill is “fuel surcharge” – it will surprise you.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Not “reduce our bills by a whopping 50%”. Read it very carefully, they are masterful with words… It says reduce the FUEL FACTOR by 50%. That is the floating charge they use to cover the fluctuating price of fuel. It is a small part of the actual CUC bill, and one would think, if it went 100% solar, this would be reduced to $0, but CUC would never be THAT benevolent…

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    • Anonymous says:

      Bills do not go down, they go up, because the numbers get fudged, with eager assistance from OfReg.

  22. Anonymous says:

    If CUC paid for those reports to be done then I agree they should not be used by others in a bid. for all the useless reports Gov’t pay for, this should be one they consider compensating CUC for and releasing to all bidders that way we get the best possible bid.

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    • James Whittaker says:

      Those reports are part of CUC’s license obligations and thus part of their standard operations which we consumers pay for. Those reports contain CUCs costs that consumers pay for but they won’t show consumers what the costs are. Transparency and good governance? Those reports also contain information on how much solar energy consumers on Grand Cayman can add to the grid, but they won’t show consumers that info. Transparency and good governance? They aren’t hiding this information to protect consumers interests, they’re hiding it because it contains information they fear the public discovering.

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