Don’t al­low too much ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, US en­ergy ex­pert tells reg­u­la­tors

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

CARIBBEAN UTIL­ITY reg­u­la­tors have been warned not to al­low “too much” ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency tech­nolo­gies to reduce the like­li­hood of dis­as­trous con­se­quences.

Dan Potash, the chief of party for the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID), yes­ter­day told par­tic­i­pants at the Or­gan­i­sa­tion Of Caribbean Util­ity Reg­u­la­tors (OOCUR) con­fer­ence in St James to al­low for pi­lots but noted that the scale of such ef­forts must be con­trolled.

“In­vestors like to say the Caribbean is a nice place to try things, but that’s not at­trac­tive. It’s not only in­sult­ing, but it could end up be­ing like Cal­i­for­nia, with the dot­com bub­ble, and can have dis­as­trous con­se­quences,” he ar­gued dur­ing a train­ing course pre­sen­ta­tion on reg­u­la­tors’ lead­er­ship chal­lenge in pri­ori­tis­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

The dot­com bub­ble stemmed from the In­ter­net in­vest­ments made by a flurry of Sil­i­con Val­ley-based com­pa­nies in Cal­i­for­nia on weak ideas that led to stock fail­ures and the crash of many net-based com­pa­nies be­tween 1999 and 2001.

Ac­cord­ing to Potash, en­ergy reg­u­la­tors should en­force “pru­dent” tech­nol­ogy choices and “only al­low ex­per­i­men­ta­tion” in pi­lot projects.

Smart street light­ing and LED Dan Potash, the chief of party for the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment. ap­pli­ances were among those sug­gested.

The en­ergy ex­pert added that reg­u­la­tors should see them­selves hav­ing a lead role in steer­ing end users to con­sume less elec­tric­ity, es­pe­cially dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods and in util­ity man­age­ment. That man­age­ment, he said, would in­volve producing more en­ergy, using the most ef­fi­ciency means of gen­er­a­tion, trans­mis­sion, and dis­tri­bu­tion.

“Those are the more dif­fi­cult tasks reg­u­la­tors face,” he said.

EF­FI­CIENCY LAG­GING

Potash ar­gued that ef­fi­ciency has lagged in the Caribbean be­cause of the fo­cus on pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity ac­cess, brain drain, lack of fi­nanc­ing, and tech­nol­ogy.

The is­sue of brain drain sur­faced in Au­gust when Ja­maica’s lead power sup­plier, the Ja­maica Public Ser­vice, com­plained that it had been los­ing its en­gi­neers to more lu­cra­tive mar­kets.

Potash, how­ever, said is­sues like those should not stop reg­u­la­tors from “mo­ti­vat­ing then de­fend­ing” the in­te­gra­tion of en­ergy-ef­fi­cient means through care­ful de­ci­sion mak­ing.

The USAID rep­re­sen­ta­tive ad­mit­ted, how­ever, that a reg­u­la­tor should not be fo­cused on get­ting con­sumers to use the least amount of en­ergy.

“Con­sumers should be free to use what­ever they want,” he said in re­sponse to a ques­tion posed by local econ­o­mist Dr Damien King.

“The reg­u­la­tor shouldn’t be gen­er­ally say­ing to peo­ple, ‘Don’t use as much elec­tric­ity’. That gen­eral mes­sage can be con­strued as de­pri­va­tion. The mes­sage shouldn’t just be that ‘you’re using to much’. The mes­sage should be, ‘Use smarter!’” he ex­plained.

PHOTO BY PAUL CLARKE

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