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Our View: About-turn on photovoltaic policy is scandalous

WE WERE given another demonstration of the slapdash way in which government policy is formulated when it was announced that the Council of Ministers had approved the construction of two solar thermal parks with a combined capacity of 100MW. And because it had taken this decision, it completely re-wrote last year’s policy on the number of licences it would issue for small-scale photovoltaic energy systems.

It would now issue less than half the number of licences it had announced last year, because the renewable energy will be produced by the solar thermal parks. The original target for PV systems was 30MW and this will now be reduced to 13.5MW. However the government would still need the approval of the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority (CERA). A representative of CERA speaking at the House commerce committee yesterday expressed reservations about the new plans, because solar thermal technology was untested.

But there is a much more compelling argument against the government plan. It would benefit two companies, which would be raking in millions every year thanks to predetermined rates, while households and businesses would be deprived of the opportunity to reduce their electricity bills through net metering. Net metering allows customers that generate their own electricity through a PV system to feed it to the grid. The power their system produces is then deducted from their electricity bill. In this way, a household would generate the cash to pay off the PV system through lower electricity bills, at no cost to the taxpayer.

So far, more than 3,000 net metering systems have been installed, but the government imposed a freeze on the issuing of new licences and had refused to say when applications would be processed again. It is scandalous that the government has now decided that two companies would benefit from its renewable energy policy at the expense of thousands of businesses and households who will now be deprived of the opportunity to pay lower electricity bills. And the irony is that the government has taken this decision despite the fact that net metering is funded exclusively by individuals.

It is decisions like these that give rise to rumours of corruption, even if it does not exist. But what other explanation could there be for helping two companies (they may have already been chosen) make millions while drastically reducing the number of householders who could reduce their electricity bill? If there is a convincing explanation for the government’s sudden change of policy we should be told about it. Hopefully some light will be shed on the matter when the commerce minister appears at House committee next week.

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