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'Solar power for every household'

THE ENERGY Regulatory Authority (CERA) will soon start a pilot net metering scheme by installing small photovoltaic systems on homes to produce power, with the aim of kitting out all households who want it from 2014.

According to CERA vice chairman Constantinos Iliopoulos, the scheme will be tested on 125 volunteer homes for a year, to see if its implementation in all households would be sustainable. If so, the aim is to install the systems on all Cypriot homes from 2014 onwards.

The cost of the installation will be picked up by consumers - around €6,000 for a 3KW system - but from there on, their electricity supply will be virtually free. 

But Iliopoulos said CERA first needed to ensure the electricity supply network – namely semi-governmental Electricity Authority (EAC) – would not be adversely affected financially.

“The system will be implemented in homes for a year on a pilot basis, to see the consequences it will have on the entire system and the aim is to implement it more generally later,” Iliopoulos told state radio yesterday.

“A small photovoltaic system that corresponds to the house’s consumption will be installed on the homes, so that at the end of the day the production from the photovoltaic will be roughly the same as the house’s consumption,” he added.

“We estimate that broader implementation after the pilot scheme will take place in 2014 for the entire population, if our observations, estimations and figures are as we expect them to be.”

Iliopoulos explained that the systems would produce electricity throughout the day – when there is sun – only needing the central supply network during the evening hours.

But he added: “We need to see the reliability of the system and see through this pilot implementation what the financial consequences will be to the system. Because if you think that all houses have zero consumption, the network (the EAC) will not be able to cover its maintenance and operational costs and therefore we will have to find a way to charge consumers, so as to cover these costs.”

According to the CERA official, the system has not yet been implemented in other EU states, apart from Denmark and Italy, where it is also being tested as a pilot scheme.

Acting EAC spokesman Yiannis Tsouloftas yesterday said the authority was not against such measures, so long as it was compensated for the subsidiary services it provides.

“What the EAC wants to ensure is that it is compensated for the subsidiary services it offers, with the aim of keeping its system functioning,” said Tsouloftas.

He explained: “For example, an application is made to supply a house with electricity and this house is quite far out of town. We have to plan a network to supply that house. Say that costs us around €5,000; we estimate that through consumption we will receive a certain amount a month… and because we estimate making some profit, we charge the client less.”

Tsouloftas said the EAC viewed it as an investment: “If the customer now comes and starts net metering, we won’t have the estimated returns. So who will pay for the money we initially put down?”

Also, he argued, solar power was unreliable. “If for two or three days a year there are clouds and no solar production, we can’t say we didn’t make any provisions as we thought there would be sun. We can’t depend on the sun, so we have to have the system ready in case it is needed.”

Tsouloftas said this was where the subsidiary services came in: “So that the EAC covers electricity supply in the event that the renewable energy sources don’t produce. This is why we want the EAC to be compensated for these subsidiary services.”

He concluded: “We are not against the net metering scheme, on the contrary we believe that any effort for better usage of electricity is positive and needs to be supported. But certain financial aspects need to be taken into account, so that the burden isn’t taken on solely by the EAC.”

The Green party yesterday expressed satisfaction with CERA’s intentions, adding that it wanted to ensure excessive restrictions are not imposed on entering the scheme.

The party also called for vulnerable sectors of the public like large and/or low-income families to be provided with the systems. 

“Our investigation into the matter showed that up to 5,000 house roofs could immediately be turned into solar power producers without operational problems…It is time for the EAC to abandon its negative stance towards self-production of electricity,” said the Greens.

“Unfortunately the promotion of solar power use in Cyprus hits a dead end due to unacceptable and intolerable bureaucracies and a lack of vision (as well as vested interests),” it added.

What is net metering?

According to Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou, net metering has no cost for the state, is simple, doesn’t need sponsoring or funding and doesn’t have to go through bureaucratic procedures.

“The RES (renewable energy sources), for example photovoltaic systems, are simply installed and as was the case previously, a meter is installed to register the electricity production from the RES that was channelled to the network,” said Theopemptou on his blog yesterday. 

“With the net metering method, the energy that was consumed by the building is calculated, as is the production from the RES, and then it is simply deducted from the home’s energy consumption.”

For example, if a home needs 900 kWh of electricity and its photovoltaic system produced 200 kWh, then,  based on the net metering method, the household will be charged for 700 kWh, said Theopemptou.

He said consumers would benefit from the fact that they would avoid the EAC’s pricing policy, which takes consumption into account by gradually increasing its charge per KW as consumption rises – on top of VAT and other charges.

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