IRP paves way for shift to renewable energy

  • Driving the IRP: pictured, from left, are Regulatory Authority staff Nigel Burgess, Jozelle Opoku, Monique Lister, Simon Clinton (Photograph supplied)

    Driving the IRP: pictured, from left, are Regulatory Authority staff Nigel Burgess, Jozelle Opoku, Monique Lister, Simon Clinton (Photograph supplied)

Local and international investors will be invited to bid on the new renewable energy projects laid out in Bermuda’s 20-year electricity plan.

This will open the way to competition in the business of generating electricity.

The Integrated Resource Plan, published last week by the Regulatory Authority, maps out a future that would have 85 per cent of the island’s electricity supply generated from renewable sources by 2035.

The plans include a 60-megawatt offshore wind farm, and more solar power, from both utility-scale solar farm projects and distributed solar, that is solar panels on homes and businesses feeding power into the grid.

Monique Lister, senior legal adviser for the RA, said: “It started with requesting the IRP proposal from Belco, then going through the alternative proposals and more than 800 submissions from the public, which were strongly pro-renewables.

“The RA has listened and the IRP is Bermuda’s 20-year electricity plan.

“We completed this process in less than two years, ahead of schedule.”

Ms Lister and other technical staff on the RA staff who have worked on the IRP for some 20 months said in an interview yesterday said that people would continue to pay Belco for their electricity as the owner and operator of the distribution grid.

Ms Lister said: “As the transmission, distribution and retail licence holder, Belco will be the sole distributor of electricity and will be responsible for the sale of electricity. Belco will also continue to provide the base load power.”

Despite the growing focus on renewables, the $108 million North Power Station, featuring four new liquid fuel-burning engines, will have an essential role to play in providing that base load.

Simon Clinton, junior technical engineer at the RA, said: “We will still need the engines to maintain the electricity supply when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.”

The IRP describes how the engines will generate a decreasing proportion of the total electricity supply as the big renewable projects come online, particularly after 2026.

Under the plan, Belco’s engines will be decommissioned at their scheduled retirement dates. According to Nigel Burgess, the RA’s senior manager, that should be approximately 25 years.

The next stage of making the IRP reality will be a series of prefeasibility studies, particularly for the offshore wind, solar and biomass parts of the plan. Biomass generation is scheduled to be added to the island’s energy mix by 2028.

The Bermuda Government is undertaking a solar feasibility study, Ms Lister said, and the RA will work on the offshore wind study. One aspect of this is likely to be a probe at sea to monitor wind speeds to estimate the potential for wind power generation.

While BE Solar’s “Better Energy Plan Bermuda”, one of the IRP alternative proposals, suggested a site six miles off Dockyard for the wind farm, Mr Clinton said the location was yet to be determined. Factors to be considered would include coral reef and aviation exclusion zones, for example.

Environmental impact assessments would also be needed.

Jozelle, Opoku, head of regulatory finance at the RA, said the IRP would help to boost the economy.

“Investment in new generation will come and that will bring construction opportunities to build infrastructure,” Ms Opoku said. “There will be many opportunities for jobs and for training programmes to ensure that people can participate.”

The significant reductions in pollution would also mean cleaner air for the island.

The fact that Belco could soon have new owners, after the utility’s parent company Ascendant Group accepted a $365 million takeover bid from Algonquin Power&Utility Corporation, made no difference to the IRP, Ms Lister said. The deal still has to be approved by the RA.

“Belco will be required to comply with the IRP,” Ms Lister said. “This will not change if there is a change of control of Belco.”

The IRP road map points to the wind farm being online within six years, as well as 21MW of utility-scale solar capacity and 30MW of distributed solar generation. Mr Burgess warned against describing the plan as “ambitious”.

“It’s very realistic,” Mr Burgess said. “Every aspect of this has been fully laid out and thought through. The details are all there in the IRP.”

Ms Lister added that the IRP is a “living document” which will be renewed every five years or so, to reflect changing realities.

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Published Aug 1, 2019 at 12:01 am (Updated Jul 30, 2019 at 8:35 pm)

IRP paves way for shift to renewable energy

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