British Virgin Islands: BVI Moves Forward With Renewable Energy

Last Updated: 28 January 2019
Article by Jenelle Archer

Opportunities for Residents and Investors

In November 2018, the BVI brought into force Renewable Energy Regulations made under a 2015 amendment to the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation Act. The BVI is well positioned to generate several forms of renewable energy—wind, solar and hydro energy being the most obvious. Consumer-generated wind energy has been used on the outer islands for several years, under a more restrictive legislative framework that was in place.

The new legislation provides an opportunity for anyone to become a consumer-generator and offers a broad range of renewable energy alternatives in addition to those mentioned above, including

  • geothermal;
  • biomass;
  • biofuel;
  • landfill gas;
  • sewage gas;
  • ocean energy; and
  • any other source which the Minister may designate in writing to allow for the adoption of new technologies as they develop.

The Renewable Energy Regulations also provide for investment in the provision of renewable energy electrical services. However, renewable energy facilities must be installed and connected to the grid by an electrician with a Class E Renewable Energy Licence to ensure safety for consumers and the grid. Among the required qualifications for applicants to obtain a Class E Licence is a solar energy NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) qualification or a wind energy certification by the ETAI (Electronics Technicians Association, International). Equivalent certifications may be accepted. Under the regulations, aggrieved applicants may appeal to the BVI High Court, directly.

CLASSIFICATION

House consumer-generators are those with a renewable energy generation capacity of up to 50 kilowatts, and a commercial consumer-generator is a consumer with a generation capacity of up to 500 KW. Anyone generating more than 500 KW receives an "Independent Power Producer" classification.

The Renewable Energy Regulations set out further technical specifications, as well as the application procedures and forms.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

BVI Electricity Corporation General Manager Leroy Abraham explains:

"The diversification of energy production within the British Virgin Islands utilizing renewables has long been a strategic objective of the BVI Electricity Corporation (BVIEC). With the legal framework now in place to support the renewable energy industry, BVIEC is eager to create the blended mix of energy production necessary to ensure a more sustainable and resilient energy future for the Territory."

The new legislative framework provides renewable energy infrastructure investments by establishing operations as an Independent Power Producer. To operate as an independent power producer, invited investors must apply for a Green Energy Licence from the Minister for Communications and Works. Clear timeframes are set out in the legislation for license processing, with five days for an initial response and 30 days for a decision. The law provides for a direct appeal to the BVI High Court in the case of dissatisfaction with the Minister's decision.

A Green Energy Licence is valid for a minimum of one year and is renewable upon application made 60 days prior to expiration.

RENEWABLE ENERGY, RESILIENCE, & RECOVERY

The impact of the September 2017 hurricanes was a significant impetus in bringing the renewable energy regime into force. While the BVI Electricity Corporation worked around the clock using existing and additional manpower and resources to restore power across the grid, its management pushed for the implementation of the renewable energy regime, recognizing that diversifying the Territory's power supply will improve resilience and potentially enable faster recovery in the future.

The Renewable Energy Regulations enhance the stronger, greener, more resilient and responsive environment which the BVI implemented during the post-hurricane recovery process.

Former O'Neal Webster Senior Partner Paul Webster, QC, (now an appellate judge), along with his team, drafted the 2015 amendment and the Renewable Energy Regulations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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