August 16, 2016

Bill Would Remove Solar Power Cap in Guam

Guam agencies, commercial entities and private residents may be able to supplant even more of their energy use with solar power due to a measure proposing to pave the way for virtual net-metering. If enacted, Bill 363-33 would overhaul several aspects of Guam law regarding renewable energy and net metering, including doubling the cap for a residential customer's entrance capacity from 25 kilowatts to 50 KW. For nonresidential customers, the bill removes the current cap of 100 KW altogether. However, agencies must still adhere to law requiring approval from the Guam Power Authority to utilize renewable energy, according to the bill's main sponsor, Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr.

A feasibility study on the impact a renewable energy system would have on the grid is also required by the measure and would come at the utility customer's expense.

A number of agencies, including the Guam Department of Education, Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, have either expressed interest or are in the process of acquiring solar photovoltaic systems. The island's largest agency, GDOE, is allowed by law to procure solar energy systems.

For schools under a lease agreement, the department can waive the normal government procurement procedures and either amend the lease to include solar power or enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) directly with the landlord.

Attorney general concerns

GDOE is finalizing a PPA with the Guam Education Financing Foundation – a lessor of four schools – but concerns from the Guam attorney general have affected the process, according to Taling Taitano, the GDOE deputy superintendent for finances.

In October 2015, education officials stated during an oversight hearing that the attorney general had instructed GDOE to seek the Consolidated Commission on Utilities' approval to ensure that the PPA with GEFF coincided with the provisions of the law. The CCU approved the PPA in March and GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said he hoped to have solar facilities installed during the summer.

With summer having ended and the school year to commence soon, Taitano said the department's legal counsel was developing a response to technical concerns from the attorney general and those responses should be available this week. While she had said that installments may begin by December during an annual budget hearing in July, she told the Post that it was impossible to move forward without the attorney general's approval.

The four GEFF schools are Okkodo High School, Adacao Elementary School, Liguan Elementary School and Astumbo Middle School. Other lessors are still determining how to approach solar acquisition, Taitano said.

The normal procurement process remains intact for GDOE-owned schools. Robert Kono, advisor for the General Services Agency, said the procurement process for solar power is ongoing and under review but more information on its status lies with the chief procurement officer who, as of yesterday, was on leave.

Several sources of renewable energy

Renewable energy sources come from more than just solar power and Rodriguez's bill defines several sources, which include biogas and biomass. These energy sources can be gained from solid waste and sewage, according to the bill. Public Law 25-175 prohibits the incineration of solid waste or operating a municipal waste-to-energy facility on Guam. While it specifies solid waste, the bill does not reference incineration in its definitions for renewable resources, and Rodriguez said there is no consideration of solid waste incineration.

"My bill does not repeal any law that forbids incineration of waste," the senator stated. "The intent of this bill is to ensure our people are provided the opportunity to participate in the use of renewable energy and be able to pay lower power rates."

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