My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: JA$4.2 Million Meadowbrook High Solar System - Why JPS Co's Net Billing suspension killing Jamaican Alternative Energy Sector

Thursday, October 29, 2015

JA$4.2 Million Meadowbrook High Solar System - Why JPS Co's Net Billing suspension killing Jamaican Alternative Energy Sector

“Our average electricity bills were ranging as high as $500,000 and this was becoming a strain on our limited funds, so we were more than ready to make the energy switch with ATL”

Meadowbrook high Principal Michael Peart commenting on ATL Energy's 25-kW Photovoltaic system installed on their auditorium

Solar Power should be used to power all School across Jamaica, as it helps to reduce their electricity Bill.

So it's nice to know that Meadowbrook High, which has been around for 57 years, has finally decided to go Solar with the installation of their Photovoltaic system as reported in the article “Meadowbrook High plugs into the sun”, published Wednesday, October 28, 2015, The Jamaica Observer

The JA$4.2 million system was installed by ATL Energy, the Solar Power arm of ATL Limited formed back in 2012 as reported in my blog article entitled “ATL goes into Alternative Energy at the same time JPSCo goes into Retail of Energy Saving Gear”. 

Meadowbrook High's Photovoltaic system, which represent Phase One of Principal Michael Peart's plans to go towards Alternative Energy hatched some three (3) years ago, has some interesting specs:

1.      84 solar panels
2.      5 Grids tie inverters
3.      25-kW system

The 84 solar panels, which are mounted on the school’s auditorium, will generate 30% of Meadowbrook High's electricity during peak periods. This will significantly bite into their gigantic electricity bill of JA$500,000, which I suspect maybe mostly from Air conditioning and lighting.

Apparently to sweeten the pot with their new customer, ATL also installed a 9,000 BTU Inverter AC unit, which is an energy saving design no doubt. Head of engineering at ATL Energy, Mark Blair, is certainly happy about their new customer going solar, quote: “I am always proud to work with and assist educational institutions take strides to become more eco-efficient. This teaches future generations that energy is to be conserved and to think outside the box as there are alternate methods outside of traditional energy supplies”.

Best of all, they can make money from the sale of Electricity to JPS Co (Jamaica Public Service Company) via the Net Billing arrangement in the summer when the school is not in session.

Net Billing and Jamaica - JPS Co need to restart program to encourage Alternative Energy industry

JPS Co's Net Billing facility has some 336 applications and 120 systems interconnected.

However, the evolution of the Alternative Energy Industry in Jamaica is however is dependent on JPS Co resuming the Net Billing arrangement, which was suspended on Friday May 1st 2015 as reported in the article entitled “Net Billing Programme is overdue”, published October 2 2015, Go-Jamaica

Net Billing allows owners of photovoltaic systems to make money from the excess power generated by their systems that's sent to the JPS Co Grid. If they have multiple properties, they can use Power Wheeling to utilize that power sent to the grid at a different location without incurring costs other than the meter as well as transmission costs on JPS Co's Network.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell had promised during a PCJ (Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica) Schools Energy Programme awards ceremony, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston on Friday June 26, 2015 to resume the Net billing arrangements as reported in the article “Gov’t to resume net billing arrangement”, published Tuesday, June 30, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

To date, Net Billing has yet to be reinstated!

Net Billing and JSEA – Why Alternative Energy Sector to go bankrupt in 2016

The current removal of the Net Billing facility had caught the JSEA (Jamaica Solar Energy Association) by surprise due to its sudden nature as reported in the article “Suspension of net billing irks Solar Energy Association”, published Thursday, May 21, 2015 by Alphea Saunders, The Jamaica Observer.

The JSEA knew that the Net Billing arrangement with the JPS Co was a two (2) year program that was given a 1 year extension since 2013. Their expectation that since three years had passed, it would have been extended through 2015 to 2016. But this has certainly not been the case, now that the JPS Co has suddenly cut off the Net Billing Facility.

Its removal will make it difficult for members of the Alternative Energy Sector to sell systems to customers, as Net billing is a selling point of Photovoltaic systems. As a result, many who have heavily invested in the Alternative Energy Sector might begin to incur huge debts.

This is due to the inability to sell their Photovoltaic Systems because of the lock of a clear regulatory guideline on Net Billing and Power Wheeling as argued in the article “Renewable Energy Providers Fear Millions In Debt Over Suspension Of Net Billing Process”, published Thursday May 14, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner
So albeit a brilliant innovation, Meadowbrook High will have to wait until JPS Co reinstates the Net Billing Program before Phase 2, which I suspect means taking the entire school off the JPS Co's Network, can commence!

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