MPs pass law encouraging energy innovation and lower prices
Concerns a reform of Bermuda’s energy development structures could “open the floodgates” for outside companies have been played down by the Government.
Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Premier, told MPs yesterday that new measures passed by the House of Assembly were intended to help cut prices for consumers on the island.
The legislation will allow inventors and entrepreneurs to develop new energy technologies in Bermuda.
The Electricity Amendment Act creates a regulatory sandbox – a light-touch regulatory framework designed to encourage innovation.
Mr Roban insisted that the amendments did not "fling open the gates", but rather, enabled a measured and structured way for innovators to introduce their technology.
He said that the developers would be subject to scrutiny before being allowed to connect to the national grid.
The minister stated that the Regulatory Authority had an obligation to promote "clean" options for energy generation in Bermuda, as well as being an overseer of the energy sector.
Mr Roban said the "concierge" role played by the RA would involve the processing of an application to use the sandbox.
This would mean an applicant would not need to visit several different departments, he stated.
Scott Pearman, the One Bermuda Alliance shadow home affairs minister, raised questions about how innovators would come to the island and use the sandbox.
He said "we do find it slightly curious" that the regulator would be both "concierge" and adjudicator.
Mr Pearman said the Business Development Agency might be better placed to attract start-ups to the island.
The shadow minister also asked what would happen if a start-up venture failed, particularly in terms of how the company could afford to clean up and dispose of the project.
He floated the idea of a reserve fund to ensure those circumstances could be covered.
OBA MP Susan Jackson, queried what would happen if the aims of developers did not live up to expectations.
Wayne Caines, a PLP backbencher, who is also the president of Belco as well as its parent company Liberty Bermuda, said that the proposed legislation represented an "excellent opportunity for Bermuda".
Cole Simons, the OBA leader, also supported the Act. He said: “I think green energy and competition is good for Bermuda, is good for the economy and is good for the cost of living in this country."
Mr Roban has singled out developers, including Belco, that are trying to set up “innovative solutions” for electricity generation such as floating solar photovoltaic installations, floating offshore wind, and ocean wave technologies.
He announced an agreement last November with international energy firm Seabased, which was considering setting up a wave energy farm off the island.
Mr Roban insisted the amendments would also encourage “much needed” inward investment to Bermuda.
The Deputy Premier said that wave power had the potential to meet all the island’s electricity needs and lead to cheaper bills for consumers.