I read with great interest a “feel-good” article in the 30 April edition of The Observer regarding the efforts of the Office of the Regulator (O.O.T.R.) to help develop plans and actions to assist the “electricity sector” - which seems to include the E.P.C. and everyone else in the country that uses electricity – called “Good foundation is in place for Samoa’s energy goals”.
The article mentioned “the Prime Minister’s target of 100% renewable energy by 2025”, which seems to be a laudatory goal from an environmental standpoint, and something that nations around the world are trying to embrace.
I think we all agree with the goal. The question is – how do we get there and are we really doing everything we can to achieve that goal?
The article mentions that “New technology can also promote the installation by customers of solar panels in their own property” which is the reason why I am writing this letter. In 2015 I first started communicating with E.P.C. because I wished to install a solar array to generate power for our business, Coconuts Beach Club, which is a large consumer of electricity.
My plan was to install enough solar panels to provide for our normal daytime power requirements, to stay connected to the E.P.C. power grid, and buy additional power from EPC at prevailing rates for nighttime and cloudy days – with any excess power generated by our solar grid sold back to E.P.C. at some negotiated rate or diverted to a back-up battery supply if E.P.C. did not want to buy the excess power.
I explained this to E.P.C. and asked for their guidance. Following weeks of discussions, during which time E.P.C. was quite helpful, E.P.C. notified us that if we installed a solar panel array to generate power we had to make a choice.
If we wished to stay connected to the E.P.C. grid then we HAD to sell them ALL of the power that we generated at some “prevailing rate” (which we believe to be approximately 50 sene per kwh) and we had to buy all of our power from E.P.C. at the going rate (which seemed to be 80 sene per kwh). In other words, we could generate power from our panels, but could not use the power that we generated for our own use.
They notified us that if we wished to use the power from our own solar panels on our own property then they would disconnect us from the grid.
Quite simply, if we wanted to create our own power and use it ourselves then we would be penalized and could no longer be connected to E.P.C.
That was the story in 2015 and is apparently the same right now.
It seems to me that the E.P.C. rules are in direct conflict with the stated goal of the Prime Minister of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2025.
It is kind of like the government telling people that they want you to conserve water and mentioning that water catchment by property owners is a good way you can achieve that goal.
But, if you install a catchment system then the government is going to disconnect you from the main water supply to penalize you for being a good citizen.
So, is the E.P.C. (and the government) really doing everything they can to meet the stated energy goals?
Once again, it seems that actions speak louder than words.
Tautai Barry Rose