Deputy John Young said that not enough is currently being done to develop renewable energy sources in the Island, such as solar, wind and tidal power, and he wants it to become a priority in Jersey’s next Strategic Plan, which sets the high-level aims for the government.
But Chris Ambler, the chief executive of Jersey Electricity, said that the Island already produced virtually carbon-free energy and that subsidising domestic renewable energy would only benefit wealthier Islanders while increasing costs for everyone else.
Deputy Young said that he wanted Jersey to do more to encourage the development of both utility-scale industrial renewables and micro-renewables for small-scale domestic or commercial energy production.
‘The more long-term issue is utility-scale renewable energy. We know that the French are building a wind-farm at St Brieuc right up to the edge of their territorial waters,’ he said.
‘I think Jersey should also be looking at trying to achieve the same energy security and potential financial benefits by doing so. I also want to look at the opportunities for tidal power.’
He added that in the short term better incentives, such as ‘feed-in tariffs’, should be introduced to encourage Islanders to install micro-renewables, such as solar panels on their homes. Feed-in tariff payments usually cover the cost of generation from the micro-renewable source and are generally higher than ‘buy-back’ tariffs.
At present Jersey Electricity offers buy-back tariffs for Islanders who produce electricity from micro-renewable sources, which offer a price of 6.4p per unit to cover the cost that would otherwise have been paid for importing electricity from
‘At the moment photovoltaic solar panels are being used on people’s roofs. The technology is maturing and the price is competitive,’ Deputy Young said.
‘What is holding that back is that we do not have feed-in tariffs for people selling energy back to the grid when excess energy is produced.’
He added: ‘People in the construction industry have said that if we were taking advantage of micro-renewable technology, then they could be training specialised staff for its instalment. So we are missing out on a opportunity.’
Mr Ambler said increasing the tariffs Jersey Electricity pays for micro-renewables would effectively be a form of subsidy for renewables.
‘We do offer buy-back tariffs and have done for some time. The question is should Jersey Electricity be effectively subsidising renewables?
‘We have a grid that is already almost completely decarbonised and if we were to provide subsidies for renewables, which are nowadays becoming economically viable anyway, the costs of electricity would increase for all our other customers.
‘Subsidies would only benefit the wealthy people who can afford to build micro-renewables and the cost will be passed on to the other consumers, including the poor and the vulnerable.’
He added: ‘If you look at the country which is used as an exemplar for renewable energy development, Germany, electricity prices have risen by 23 per cent there.
‘Jersey Electricity has reduced its carbon emissions by 35 per cent over the last 20 years. We used to burn oil but we have moved towards importing our electricity from France, which comes from nuclear and hydro-electric [sources] and is more affordable, more secure and
Mr Ambler added that Jersey Electricity was supporting the development of solar farms in brownfield sites across the Island, which he said was more ‘economically viable’ than installing domestic solar panels on roofing.