Relief for power customers could arrive months from now, thanks to solar energy | Editorials
The efforts of the Guam Power Authority to diversify Guam’s power sources from the previously entirely fossil-fueled generators could finally give island consumers the relief they need – starting in a few months.
GPA recently forecast that a subsidiary of the state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp. or KEPCO, South Korea’s largest energy company, could start selling solar energy to GPA in early 2022.
The KEPCO plant, which is being developed in Mangilao, can produce 60 megawatts, almost a quarter of Guam’s peak electricity needs.
The plant was originally supposed to start producing electricity in December.
Now the planned date for the commissioning of the solar system has been postponed to March or April 2022, GPA managing director John Benavente told the members of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities on Tuesday.
The delay was due to the fact that, ironically, KEPCO was hit by environmental barriers when the project’s alleged failure to take adequate erosion control measures resulted in mud and rainwater runoff into the freshwater pools at the tourist attraction and the Marbo Cave historic site.
KEPCO and its contractor Samsung E&C America Inc. still have to answer for the erosion problem, including to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the US EPA and the Guam Office of the Attorney General.
The DPW puzzle
But as for the Department of Public Works, its order to halt the project has been lifted, GPA said earlier this week.
We don’t know how DPW has gone from being a somewhat opaque in the enforcement scene to a hardliner who is willing to pay the contractor of the solar system developer a fine in the millions and now gives the project the green light again – just like that.
DPW issued a work freeze on Aug. 21, which derailed funding for the project and actual work on site, Benavente said. The work freeze was lifted as of September 27, he added.
At the time of going to press on Thursday, the DPW did not provide any details on how – or why – its position was changed.
Focusing on the benefits for the installment payers
Today we can focus on how this project can ultimately benefit electricity tariff payers.
Resuming the project would help protect Guam from future oil price spikes, at least the GPA expects.
It is encouraging to know that our stream will not go completely dark if the fuel supply ships that call into Guam’s port each month fail to arrive or are delayed. There were years when GPA spent more than $ 300 million a year on heating oil to heat its power plants.
That’s a lot of money for fossil fuels and a lot of money for the island’s economic drainage.
KEPCO is spending an estimated $ 200 million on the development of the solar park and plans to recoup the money under a 25-year agreement to sell solar energy to GPA.
Despite the delay, fuel cost savings are expected and the project is ahead of its contract deadline of May 2022, according to the GPA.
Benavente estimated that starting the solar array’s energy production will reduce GPA’s fuel costs by approximately $ 5-6 million in the first four months of the plant’s operation.
Benavente said on Tuesday: “As it becomes more specific and defined in the next few months, I will recommend that we include this in the (fuel surcharge equation) so that we can adjust the price of tariff payers.”
We have to thank GPA and senators in part for their foresight in the use of solar energy.
The US Energy Information Administration has recognized milestones in Guam’s move from near total dependence on fossil fuels.
“One goal of Guam’s economic development strategy is to replace some of its imported petroleum with local renewable energy resources. In 2008, Guam legislators enacted a renewable energy portfolio standard that would make renewable sources 8% of the island’s electricity sales by the end of 2020 cover.” The goal of renewable energies would increase to 10% of electricity sales by 2025 and to 25% by 2035. In 2019, Guam legislators updated the standard so that 50% of electricity sales must come from renewable energies by 2035 and 100% of electricity sales by 2045, ”EIA stated in a report.
There is at least one more thing the GPA and lawmakers can do. As the cost of solar panels and solar energy storage at home becomes affordable, GPA and lawmakers should support homeowners taking the initiative to install solar systems in their homes. Rather than eliminating or reducing the incentives for homeowners to opt for solar systems, the target post for fee payers should be moved closer – no further away.
The energy security that solar energy provides could benefit the island and its people.