Businesses seek break from Belco on solar power
Energy goes to waste because there is no deal for power firm Belco to buy electricity generated through solar power by business users, a company chairman said.
Rod Ferguson, chairman of hardware store Gorham's, said that, although Belco gave credit to domestic solar power users for power supplied to it, it had not reached a deal with the commercial sector.
He added that meant power generated through sunshine when Gorham's was closed on Sunday went to waste — instead of decreasing the island's reliance on fossil fuels and cutting Gorham's bills for conventionally-generated electricity.
Mr Ferguson said: “Belco has a plan if I just had a house and I had solar panels, they would buy back my excess power and I would get a credit.
“But for commercial use, they don't do anything at all yet, although they have been under the gun for two years now to come up with a plan.”
Belco has bought electricity from domestic alternative energy sources with systems of up to 15 kilowatts since 2010 — but commercial properties have been excluded.
Mr Ferguson said he had contacted the Government's Energy Commission and was told it was working with Belco to reach an agreement on commercial solar power.
He added that he had also contacted Belco senior management to ask for an explanation for the delay — but had never received a reply.
Mr Ferguson added that other major island businesses, including rum firm Gosling's, faced the same problem.
He said: “It just seems crazy that two fairly large companies in Bermuda which employ a lot of people and installed all these solar panels are getting no rebate or credit from Belco when we are not using energy we are extracting from the sun.”
He added: “In the meantime, Belco is running off and buying fuel to run their generators. They are working against the balance of payments by buying fuel when less would be needed because of people with solar panels on commercial operations.”
Mr Ferguson said Pembroke-based Gorham's had spent around $1 million installing solar panels two years ago and had already seen a drop of around 28 percent a year in its Belco bills.
But he said the firm still forked out around $18,000 a month for power — and estimated that could be cut by more than $4,000 if Belco bought excess solar-generated electricity from the firm.
Mr Ferguson said: “It would be very nice to get that type of a credit — and it would provide a boost for local solar power companies if they could say there would be rebates available for businesses.”
Mr Ferguson was backed by Stuart Hayward, chairman of environmental charity BEST.
Mr Hayward said: “Given the trend, locally and globally, toward reducing fossil fuel generated electricity, it does seem odd that Belco would not be at the forefront in taking advantage of every chance to replace combustion-related power with more environmentally friendly sources.
“As the Island's sole sanctioned electricity supplier Belco is in a privileged position and we would hope that the company would view itself as a leader, not a reluctant follower, in moving Bermuda towards enlightened energy practices.”
A spokeswoman for Belco said proposals for energy buy-back from commercial solar power producers had been sent to the Government's Energy Commission.
She added: “It's been with the Energy Commission since May and we're awaiting a decision.”
Energy Commission Chairman Michael Leverock could not be contacted for comment.
Ministry of Economic Development, which is responsible for energy policy, was asked for comment but had not replied by press time.