San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Renewable energy

Homes, businesses that produce renewable energy can now store it in the grid

The pricing model for net metering, which will enable Costa Rican homes and businesses that generate their own electricity to store surplus in the grid, enters into force on Friday.

Environment and Energy Minister (MINAE) Edgar Gutiérrez announced the launch of the program, which will allow consumers who have solar panels or other renewable energy systems, but who are also connected to the grid, to save even more on monthly bills.

Homes and businesses that produce renewable energy for self-consumption will pay interconnection tariffs approved by the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP).

All power companies have set their tariffs and are ready to start offering interconnections to the national electricity grid.

Under the new program, customers are authorized to send up to 49 percent of the energy they produce to the grid. They can use that stored energy later.

The program aims to promote the use of renewable energy and reduce monthly bills for consumers. It will also help power companies offset their production, transmission and administrative costs.

MINAE officials said the economic benefits of distributed generation will be mostly noticeable over the long term, as the system does not charge for energy as it is produced, but rather for energy stored in the grid for later use.

The project already has an initial list of some 50 customers of the National Power and Light Company. Most of them are industrial and commercial consumers, which already have approved feasibility studies.

The Costa Rican Electricity Institute also has a list of 300 customers who took part in a pilot project that currently provides 11 megawatts to the national energy system. Among them are state-owned and private companies with installed solar panels, such as the state-owned Banco de Costa Rica, cleaning product manufacturer Florex and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, which uses solar energy to power its stadium’s lighting system.

Costs

Interconnection tariffs for each kilowatt-hour (kwh) range from ₡11 to ₡29 ($0.02 to $0.05), depending on the power company (see full list below).

Regular users of the electricity grid pay on average ₡90 ($0.17) per kWh, according to ARESEP data.

MINAE officials estimate the full process to connect to the national electricity grid takes two to four weeks.

In order to join the distributed generation program, customers must pay for a technical feasibility study and inspection fees from power companies.

Total costs for the feasibility study and inspections range from ₡60,000 to ₡170,000 ($110 to $313). In addition, each consumer must acquire a two-way meter, which measures energy taken from and sent to the grid, and pay for setup fees. Costs for additional inspections might apply if power companies request them. (See chart below.)

Besides solar, hydro, biomass and wind energy also qualify for the program.

MINAE vice minister Irene Cañas noted that the local market already offers several financing options for acquiring renewable energy systems, therefore she hopes many people soon will be joining the distributed generation program.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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A Dull Roar

Don’t get too excited Jon. When you run the numbers for costs of a solar system including batteries (since they will only let you sell 49% of your output) and maintenance, you would make far more investing that money in a colones CD at 11-12% interest. To really make this worthwhile for homeowners, they should not be charging any tariff and take all you can produce.

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John

Yes, it is important to “run the numbers.”
But just claiming everyone would “make far more” investing in a colones CD at 11-12% is not “running the numbers.”
In fact, I just ran your numbers, and it looked to me like a typical colones CD rate (at BCR) was around 7.5% for a 5-year term, which is about 30% less than the number you “ran.”
So is your “analysis” really just nothing more than a wild swipe at this renewable energy initiative, and an attempt to actually avoid “running the numbers?”
To really “run the numbers,” for one thing, would require knowing if the 49% that private energy generators can store in the country’s energy grid is calculated on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. basis.
Depending on the time frame used, the costs/savings could be drastically different, since cloudy days might be used to offset electricity injected into the grid on sunny days.
And if the energy generator sells surplus electricity to an energy utility (instead of storing it him/herself), would purchase of batteries even be necessary?
If they would be necessary, what would be their cost relative to the amount of electricity produced?
And what, more precisely, would be the cost(s) of the “maintenance” you suggest might be so expensive?
To “run the numbers” we first need credible numbers for this and other factors.
And what are the ‘costs’ of the equipment an energy generator would need?
We need some concrete examples, and numbers for this, as well, before dismissing this initiative.
So while you are absolutely correct to say that “running the numbers” is necessary, this is obviously something energy generators would do before signing on to this system.
We should not just use an unsupported claim that “a (fantasy?) colones CD at 11-12%” would be superior to using renewable energy as an excuse to denigrate what is a good idea — encouraging businesses and people to convert to renewable energy while at the same time saving money.

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Jon Harrington

Finally a program that will convert the vast solar energy that hits Costa Rica into electrical energy!

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