A bill that would wean the Guam Power Authority off fossil fuel is headed to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s desk for her signature.
Crossing party lines, senators on Thursday passed Bill 80, which would require GPA to have 50 percent renewable energy in its portfolio by 2035 and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
“This is an important bill for so many of us who love Guam and only want to see the best for our future,” said Sen. Amanda Shelton, author of Bill 80-35.
The bill, she said, has a two-pronged goal: to protect Guam’s environment and to protect the ratepayers’ pocketbooks.
“GPA spends nearly $200 million a year in annual fuel costs, money that goes from our local ratepayers and is shipped overseas,” Shelton said. “Money is being exported out of our economy. We have an affinity for locally-sourced goods and that can include our energy.”
Guam’s current law, PL 29-62 sets a goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2035. Currently, 6 percent of GPA’s energy portfolio comes from renewable energy with the agency meeting the 25 percent energy target in 2022, a full 13 years early.
In a resolution adopted in April, the Commission on Consolidated Utilities said GPA has completed its Renewable Integration Study supporting the technical feasibility of integrating 50 percent of renewable energy into GPA's grid once the recommended infrastructure projects are completed.
GPA has begun developing its implementation plan and Phase IV Renewable Energy Acquisition multi-step bid procurement documents, the resolution said.
The path to 100 percent renewable power is achievable. To get there, we need support from all areas of our community to decide what options and programs are best for Guam,” Shelton said.
Sen. Amanda Shelton
“We are thankful to the Guam Power Authority and the experts of the renewable energy industry, our youth who have called for meaningful change and action on the climate crisis and all others who have voiced their concerns- for their input and commitment to work toward a more sustainable future. We must set the bar high because our future is counting on us. This bill represents nothing less than an inflection point in the history of our island.”
Bill 80 initially sought to increase GPA’s renewables portfolio standard to 50 percent.
After holding a public hearing on the measure, Sen. Clynt Ridgell, the bill's co-author and chair of the Power and Energy Utilities Committee, amended the bill in committee based on the public testimony that was received.
The amended version increased the RPS to 100 percent by 2045 and authorized GPA to engage in distributed generation via a Community Solar Host Program.
Distributed generation is a model for power generation, wherein the generation of power is spread out or distributed across the grid. The current model of generation relies on more centralized generation, wherein the bulk of the power produced comes from large power plants.
“It’s like the old saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs into one basket. Why do we say this? Because if that basket breaks, you lose all of your eggs,” Ridgell said. “With conventional power generation, if a large power plant goes down, you lose a lot of power generation in one shot. If you spread that power generation across an electric grid via a distributed generation model, you spread the risk, and you prevent yourself from putting all of your eggs into one basket.”
The Net Energy Metering (NEM) program and the Community Solar Host Program are both forms of distributed generation. Ridgell noted, however, that unlike the net energy metering system, the Community Solar Host Program would allow GPA to enter into power purchase agreements with independent power producers much like the way they currently do for their solar farms and even for the proposed power plant.
“GPA would then lease rooftops from private property owners or the government of Guam in exchange for discounts or credits to power bills. The leased rooftops will host solar photovoltaic equipment that will effectively, efficiently, and quickly power up our community with cleaner, greener energy—cheaper than what we are currently being charged for power produced by fossil fuels,” Ridgell said.
“The high cost of power bills for our people is largely due to the cost of fuel,” the senator said. “Renewable energy removes the need for fuel thus reducing our power bills. Testimonies from solar industry professionals show that we can pay for solar rooftop distributed generation for as low as $0.13 per kWh with battery storage as opposed to the levelized energy adjustment clause (LEAC) at $0.15 per kWh, and since the technology already exists and continues to improve, a community solar host program is worth pursuing.”
Since the release of the amended bill, however, Ridgell’s office said the senator was contacted by GPA with concerns about the Community Solar Host Program. Some colleagues also shared these concerns after hearing from GPA officials. The senator decided to remove this section of the amended bill and instead introduce it as a stand-alone measure.
In 2015 the Hawaii Legislature passed a law requiring 100 percent of its electricity to come from renewable resources by 2045. Maine, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, California, New Mexico, Washington, New York, and Nevada all have similar laws targeting 100 percent renewable energy in the coming decades. Hawaii faces similar challenges. Hawaii faces similar challenges as Guam as an isolated island but has been able to overcome these obstacles in partnership with NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federal agency dedicated to the research, development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.
GPA marked the beginning of Guam’s leap forward into renewable energy in 2015 with the opening of the island’s first solar farm in Dandan. Built in partnership with NRG Renew LLC, the 25.6-megawatt solar plant is the largest solar facility on Guam, with more than 120,000 solar photovoltaic panels. The facility integrates solar into the existing on-island grid and provides about 10 percent of the grid load in renewable energy.
“I have taken everyone’s comments into serious consideration, and in the spirit of cooperation, I decided to remove the provision from Bill 80. I do look forward to working together with GPA and the CCU to craft a fair and reasonable measure as a separate bill to encourage distributed generation through a Community Solar Host Program or a similar program," Ridgell said. “We are extremely happy with the passed version of the amended bill,” Ridgell said. “I wish to thank Senator Shelton for introducing this bill and thank my colleagues for their support of clean, green, renewable energy and for their help towards making Guam green again.”
In May 2017, GPA and the Navy signed a 32-year lease agreement that authorizes GPA to install solar panels on 164 acres of Navy property, generating 40MW of solar PV generation.
Also in May 2017, GPA entered into a $35-million contract with South Korea’s LG CNS to procure 40MW megawatts of energy system storage (ESS). The project — consisting of one 24MW ESS at the Hagåtña Substation and another 16MW ESS at the Talofofo Substation —