Several banks here in the Cayman Islands are beginning to offer loansto homeownersfor the installation ofsolar-power generating systems.

These systems could potentially exceed the limits of theCUC’s customer owned renewable energy program according to sources close to the situation. This is a cause for concern for many citizens. Reports state that the current average homeowner in the Cayman Islandswould require a solar-power system that is capable of generating +/- 5-kilowatt hours of solar energy. The installation costs for one of these systems would be in the $15,000-$17,000 range.These new loan programs are expected to include wide-ranging and flexible terms in an effort to encourage a larger number of people to sign up.

The terms on these loans could range anywhere from five years to twenty plus years depending on whether the monies are lent as a straight loan or as a part of an overall home mortgage. The Caribbean Utility Company’s existing CORE program is constructed around a system wherein owners and businesses have a desire and the ability to install their own solar power setups. The owners, then, sell the power they generate to CUC and have the option to buy it back as needed. The CUC also pays homeowners for the power they supply. Payments under the current program have been modified several times and this can be a point of contention. In the first instance the CUC paid the homeowners a bit under 40 cents per kilowatt hour and businesses just over 37 cents on a twenty year contract. Recently, the CUC and its Electricity Regulatory Authority increased the cap on the amount of self-generated power allowed on the national grid while simultaneously extending the contracts to 25 years. They also reduced the payments to 32 cents for every kilowatt-hour for private homes and 28 cents for solar-generatingcorporations on-island. As of printing time, moreover, the plan has changed again and now theCUC pays homeowners just 30 cents per kilowatt-hour for systems generating up to 5 kilowatts, 28 cents per kilowatt-hour for systems generating 5-10 kilowatts, 26 cents for systems generating 10-20 kilowatts and 21 cents for systems generating 20-100 kilowatts.Lastly, CUC restricts residential solar power systems to a20-kilowatt maximum output and corporate power generators to 100 kilowatts.

Many people close to the issue view the long-term solar strategy of the power company as an enemy to the solar power movement in the Cayman Islands. On the other hand, the Caribbean Utilities Companysays that this multitude of changes hasstimulated (rather than hindered) proliferation of small-scale systems in the Cayman Islands. Detractors say that this restructuring contributes to lower prices,lengthy payback periods for those with solar capabilities at their homes or businessesand overall feeds into a discouraged uptake of renewable energy systems by homeowners and corporations alike. ERA reps state that if the cheap financing the banks are offering produces an increase in adoption that will show that the consumers have discovered a way to reduce their costs and increase their ROI’s. Time will tell how this system plays out, and you can bet there will be many changes as Cayman moves to reduce its carbon footprint and transition to cleaner methods of energy-generation.

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