ALTHOUGH the government announced that it would allocate funds for investment in renewable energy sources (RES), as a way of helping the economy’s recovery, the relevant budget bill is still gathering dust in the legislature. Last Tuesday the Environment Commissioner Ioanna Panayiotou issued an announcement extolling the benefits of this scheme, after discussing the issue at the House Commerce Committee.
She cited the impressive results of the net-metering pilot scheme by which the electricity produced by photovoltaics (PV) and channelled into the grid was credited to the house’s electricity bill. The balance the householder had to pay the EAC was impressively low. A PV system may cost several thousand euro, but the saving on the electricity bill, assuming net-metering goes ahead, would ensure the investment was paid for in a few years.
The government decided that net-metering would be a good way of reducing the electricity bills for low income households and as part of its RES scheme would be subsidising 50 per cent of the PV installation cost. While this is a very a good idea there is one practical problem that the government does not appear to have addressed. Where would a low income household find the funds (in the region of two to three thousand euro) to pay the remaining 50 per cent of the installation cost?
These are hard times and low income households would be happy to have enough money to put food on the table. They are unlikely to have the spare cash to invest in a PV system nor would they be able to borrow the money from a bank or a co-op. In the very unlikely event that they were able to borrow the money, any saving on the electricity bill would go towards paying off the loan, so how would a poor household benefit from the government scheme?
The government needs to re-think the whole scheme, assuming it is serious about implementing it, if the objective was to help what were described as ‘vulnerable groups of society’. The fear, however, is that the relevant bill on net metering might remain in the legislature’s drawers for some time, because the EAC’s union would not support a scheme that would reduce the Authority’s revenue and threaten jobs. Its chairman has already reported that electricity consumption had fallen by about 20 per cent this year, putting additional financial strain on the Authority.
Net-metering would further reduce EAC revenue as households and businesses would be taking a share of it. Would union and political parties allow such a thing to happen?