Bermuda utility peels back net metering program for solar

Not one of the heavyweights on the global solar scene, Bermuda has still been doing its part to encourage the deployment of solar PV, however, the revision of its electricity supplier’s net metering scheme is likely to reduce the level of new residential and commercial PV installations. The scheme was up for review after 200 customers had taken advantage of it, but news coming out of the island jurisdiction is that there are now 335 participants.

BELCO’s Net Metering Program was launched in 2010, with the aim of incentivizing the adoption of solar PV systems for residents and businesses. The subsidy that participants would receive under the scheme was the same rate that they would pay for electricity from the utility.

The program was due to be reviewed after 200 BELCO customers signed onto it, but there are now 335 customers taking advantage of the scheme. Therefore, BELCO has announced that it will no longer be offering the subsidy for customers who obtain planning permission for new PV installation after 15 August 2016. Customers already on the scheme will continue to receive the net meter subsidy, while customers with new PV installations will be compensated at an avoided cost to offset the price of fuel.

“All new customers interconnecting with BELCO will be compensated at avoided cost, which is largely the cost of fuel,” a BELCO spokesperson said. “The avoided cost number will be submitted to the Energy Commission (EC) monthly for approval.”

For an island that is looking to increase its reliance on renewable energies the move comes as a surprise. However, BELCO believes that the goal of the program has been achieved, and to continue with the scheme would undermine the development of large-scale projects.

“The goal of incenting adoption of small-scale solar PV has been achieved,” commented BELCO Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Denton Williams. “This is also confirmed by the Government’s elimination of solar rebates in 2014. With a broad number of participants the current approach is unsustainable for large-scale deployment, equitable cost-based ratemaking principles need to be applied. The filing proposes that the new avoided cost tariff for payment to new residential and commercial customer solar installations be available on a first come, first serve basis for a two-year period.”