In an article in the Monday issue of the Cyprus Mail, energy expert Charles Ellinas exposed the scandalous failure of successive governments, but particularly the current one, to take the necessary action to expand the use of renewable energy sources (RES). Photovoltaics (PV) have been available for the last 20 years and if governments actually had a long-term strategy for incorporating them into power production, households would not today require a bank loan to settle their electricity bills.

The scale of this failure was brought home by the Distribution System Operator and the Transmission System Operator, which jointly wrote a letter to the government requesting the suspension of the scheme for the installation of residential PVs, because of risks to the electricity system. The suspension should end when these risks were tackled, said the operators, explaining that without upgrading the electrical power system and without battery storage there was a risk of power cuts.

While Energy Minister Natasa Pilides described this as “unbelievable and disappointing,” the operators were making a valid point. RES have been used for almost 20 years now, the government has been subsidising the installation of PVs, both residential and commercial, for more than 15 years, it has spent huge amounts subsidising wind farms, and yet nothing has been done to ensure the electric power system could cope with the increased supply. Did nobody know that the system had to be upgraded and that battery storage was necessary to cope with the increased RES capacity and ensure against fluctuations in the supply of renewable electricity, that would cause problems to the system?

Ellinas knew about it and had warned, three years ago, “in order to achieve (our RES) targets, there will be a need for major improvements in electricity systems, operations, market design, business models and regulations so that RES receives the priority and support it deserves.” Did Ellinas have to point this out? What have the directors of the EAC boards been doing all these years? Why had none of the highly paid executives and engineers employed by the EAC not informed the board about the need to upgrade the system? We are nowhere near meeting our RES targets and in 2021 were way below the EU average of RES power production, which was 37.5 per cent. Cyprus was still at 14.8 per cent.

As recently as last month, the EAC unions were threatening to cause power cuts, in protest against the energy regulator’s reluctance to give the authority licences for RES production. Were they not aware that the system could not take an increase in the RES capacity? They were probably responsible, together with the EAC boards for nothing being done to upgrade the electricity system (they have been preventing the opening of the electricity market for eight years) for some self-serving reasons. For as long as unions decide the country’s energy policy, we will continue to lag behind on RES and pay extortionate electricity rates.