Even though the public policy of Costa Rica with its National Development Plan and the National Energy Plan establishes that the use of renewable energy has to be encouraged, there seems to be a big gap between those intentions and reality.
With ICE’s Pilot Plan the democratization of distributed generation started in 2011: ICE offered to electricity generators, i.e. houses, shops and factories the possibility to connect to the grid and inject their surplus during the day and consume from the grid at night when the panels stop producing. With the end of the Pilot Plan in February this year, the POASEN, the recent regulation for distributed generation should offer a new framework within which all power distributors – the electricity generating companies-, offer the possibility to small generators to be grid-tied. Besides an interconnection fee, the price to be paid for the purchase and installation of a two-way meter to record both consumed and injected electricity an access rate was established, a monthly fee for each KwH consumed from the grid. Also the surplus price, the price paid by distributors to generators was established for the excess injected into the grid.
The new established rates have caused much discomfort among generators, distributors of renewable energy systems and environmentalists in general because instead of stimulating the development of the implementation of renewable energy on the contrary it seems to be discouraged.
At Purasol, we keep hoping that the next actors of fixing rates, will particularly take the access rate into account. Electricity distribution companies say they need to charge this fee in order to cover their costs for control; field visits and quality testing. If this fee is too high it will encourage people to invest in off-grid systems that are independent from the grid instead of being a part of it. The off-grid systems though are more expensive because they need batteries to store electricity, the surplus that cannot be “distributed”.
So the initial democratization of power generation with solar panels for home consumption has been halted and At Purasol we witness more sales and installations of off-grid systems. However, we wonder why the institutions seem to put obstacles towards the development of grid-tied systems which are more affordable because batteries are not necessary and they support the community because the excess can be injected into the grid. The Costa Rican grid where there is a threat of shortages and where expensive and polluting fossil fuels are used.
Hopefully we do not end up here as in Spain where the sun will be taxed. It is time that Costa Rica, known worldwide as a “green and clean” country, turns its political intentions into real facts.