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Renewable energy key to soaring CUC bills

Local News 12 Jul, 2021 Follow News

Renewable energy key to soaring CUC bills

Sasha Tibbetts, CUC’s Vice President, Customer Services and Technology

By Lindsey Turnbull

 

If you have just received your June CUC bill and were shocked by the increase over May’s, you are not alone, with many people on island trying to fathom out why their bill has increased dramatically, sometimes hundreds of dollars on their May bill. While some might be unphased by this, assuming it’s just the annual summertime hike, many believe the increase is hard to understand when they have been deliberately and carefully trying to conserve energy ahead of the usual increase in summer time usage of electricity.

Sasha Tibbetts, CUC’s Vice President, Customer Services and Technology, said the phenomenon of increases in electricity bills over the summer months, usually starting in June, was not unusual, given the increase in oil prices that normally takes place at this time of year due to global demand, as well as warmer weather requiring air conditioning units (one of the most expensive electricity consumers in Cayman) to work much harder. Although it might only seem like we are turning the A/C down a notch or two, the units have to work much harder to keep the temperature required when the outside temperature moves from 80F to 90F at this time of year, he advised.

While CUC have employed a broad range of education programmes to help people to manage their fuel bills more efficiently, advising people to use programmable thermostats, spend more on higher efficiency A/C units and insulate houses for example, there is a limit as to how much electricity can really be saved, Mr Tibbetts advised. The real key to reducing energy costs was investing in renewable energy programmes, of which CUC had many ideas that they wanted to implement.

 

Renewable energy needed now

“Renewable energy is our number one strategy for energy resources,” he advised. “We are seen as perhaps the utility that loves diesel energy, and while diesel energy has served Grand Cayman extremely well in the past, the days of them being the best option for energy resources is kind of gone.”

Mr Tibbetts felt that Cayman would still need diesel power for the next 20 years or so as it provided a good back-up energy source when there was no sun, either at night or during bad weather, but he said CUC was very heavily invested in pushing forward a renewable strategy.

“Right now, we are working with OfReg to try and get some approvals for projects. That has been challenging. The biggest issue right now is there is no framework in place for the procurement of large-scale renewable energy. I know OfReg has been working on one for quite some time but that’s still some months out and the need for renewable energy is now.”

Mr Tibbetts advised that CUC has put up a project for OfReg’s consideration that would produce 11 per cent of the island’s energy from solar. This project was currently under discussion. The potential cost benefit of renewable energy to the consumer was huge, he said.

“We don’t put projects in front of OfReg that don’t have a substantial consumer benefit. At current fuel prices we would expect to see savings of about $3 million a year from that one project and that would go to all of the customers. A few of these projects and it stacks up,” he confirmed.

If there was a path that CUC was allowed to take, the Cayman Islands would be probably two thirds to three quarters of the way through to the goals of the National Energy Policy a year ago, Mr Tibbetts said.

“Renewable energy is such a great business. You can improve environmental performance, reduce costs to consumers, reduce cost volatility to consumers, and all of that can be done while the owner of the plant makes a fair return. So, everybody wins,” he stated.


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