Renewable energy is the future…but there is a gap between that future and today’s need for reliable and affordable energy.
With varying weather patterns, and the expense of large-scale battery storage facilities, renewable generation cannot yet supply stable electricity to Bermuda at an affordable price.
Today’s Limitations On Renewable Energy
We aim to improve Bermuda’s environment and reduce greenhouse emissions wherever possible. In fact, we have conducted extensive research and analysis to see what can be done. But our research has shown that for now, renewable generation cannot yet supply stable electricity to Bermuda at an affordable price.
To provide the most reliable, cost effective energy possible for Bermuda
BELCO is the only licensed transmission, distribution and retail (TD&R) provider in Bermuda. That means we have a legal obligation, under the Electricity Act 2016, to provide the people of Bermuda with access to electricity. Regardless of how renewable energy develops in the future, we cannot ignore our present day obligation to continue to ensure that Bermuda stays powered with minimal compromises to reliability and costs.
Our Short-Term Need: To Upgrade Our System
Acknowledging that large-scale renewable generation is still years away from being our reality, and that our old generators and worn cables will not sustain Bermuda’s power needs, we have no choice but to secure replacement generation, invest in a battery energy storage system and upgrade our TD&R system to ensure that today’s power remains as reliable, efficient and affordable as possible.
BELCO’s Renewables Goals
Our integrated resource plan (IRP) proposal to the Regulatory Authority envisages about 16% of generation coming from renewable energy sources, with an additional 3% to be conserved through energy efficiency.
These renewable sources will include:
- Tyne’s Bay — which today creates 4.5 Megawatts (MW) of energy from waste heat created by incinerating our garbage.
- The East End solar photovoltaic plant (the Finger) — which will contribute 6MW of installed capacity.
- Rooftop solar installations (including those installed at the BELCO plant), which today deliver a combined 4MW of installed capacity.
Our Grid: Not Yet Ready For Large-Scale Renewables
At this point in time, our grid is simply unable to support large-scale generation from renewable resources. Approximately 40% of our cables are older than 50 years old, and were not designed to accommodate energy from renewable sources.
Our grid is currently able to accept only 14MW of renewables, which equates to 8% of total installed Central plant generating capacity and 13% of day peak demand.
We are constantly upgrading our TD&R network and are currently working to expand our grid capacity. These upgrades will make the grid increasingly capable of supporting more renewable energy in the future.
Rapid Renewable Growth Would Increase Your Rates
Any large renewable generation system would require extensive and expensive upgrades to our grid, including added substations and converters. Unfortunately, we are not currently in a position to afford all of these investments which would significantly increase customer energy rates.
This is before we even consider the cost of building and maintaining the renewable energy sources themselves and the major expense of large-scale battery storage facilities that would be required to harness their power during the nights and variable weather.
To build, supply and operate 60 MW of solar (roughly the amount of power Bermuda requires) and the battery storage, substations and distribution network that would be needed to convert and get the power to your homes and businesses, the cost of electricity would be close to double what it is today.
We Need More Space For Solar or wind power
With current solar panel technologies, Bermuda does not have enough space to be fully powered by solar. Our research has shown that 1,110 acres of solar panels would be required to fully power Bermuda with solar energy. That is an area six times as large as the City of Hamilton.
Similarly, without extensive open land for wind turbines, Bermuda would need to turn to offshore placement, which could damage our ocean environment.
We Put Your Energy Reliability First
The fact is that Bermuda needs conventional generation. Conventional generation, which is available all the time, has a 90% capacity factor, while solar generation, which is only available during the day in sunny weather, has only a 20% capacity factor. That means all renewable resources require backup. For example, we would need to provide backup for solar panels when it is cloudy or at night when the sun is not shining.
We also must consider the vulnerability of renewable resources to hurricanes, the inability of wind turbines to operate in winds over 35 knots, the cost of replacement, and the necessity of BELCO providing backup in the case of any disaster. Bermuda’s homes and businesses rely on electricity and we must ensure that backup is available for all customers, whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
Reliability does come at a cost. Our generators will still need to be maintained and run in addition to any renewable power source in order to be ready to meet emergency demands; these costs would increase customer rates, as customers would essentially pay for two sources of generation.
Rain, blow or shine,
we will continue working to provide Bermuda with cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy.
What is BELCO Doing To Create a Cleaner Energy Future?
We have supported renewable energy for years, and continue to invest and improve our systems to minimise fuel use. For example…
As members of CAREC, the renewable energy community operating within CARILEC (Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation), we are constantly studying the latest trends and collaborating with regional peers on renewable energy developments.
We initiated the assessment of the Finger and provided Government with research support for the project.
We have our own solar panels installed at BELCO to assist us with ongoing research and testing.
We are transitioning our entire fleet to electric vehicles.
We actively promote energy efficiency, helping all Bermuda residents to play a part in conserving energy and reducing emissions.
We have invested in a battery energy storage system to make our reserve power generation more efficient.
Replacement Generation: Ensuring Reliability Today
We are replacing our old, inefficient generators with replacement generation at the North Power Station. With new dual-fuel engines, when the time comes we will have the capability to switch from fuel oil to natural gas, potentially cutting our carbon emissions by 30%.
This is the bridge to the technology of the future, ensuring that we have reliability for today while we work towards adopting the innovations of tomorrow.
The IRP: Bermuda’s Energy Future
The Regulatory Authority is ultimately responsible for the IRP and will decide what the final IRP will entail. Setting the IRP involves a fluid process, as the IRP will be reviewed at least every 5 years so that Bermuda’s energy plan can evolve along with advancements in technology.
Rain, blow or shine, we will continue working to provide Bermuda with cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy. We look forward to the outcome of the IRP, and any future technological advancements that will evolve our energy future without compromising costs and reliability.
In the meantime, our plan is one that Bermuda can rely upon and that Bermudians can afford.