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Top committee warns deputies of un-costed electricity future ahead of key debate

Top committee warns deputies of un-costed electricity future ahead of key debate

Thursday 31 August 2023

Top committee warns deputies of un-costed electricity future ahead of key debate

Thursday 31 August 2023


Politicians need to accept that consumers will “bear the brunt of the costs” and taxpayers the risk of possible borrowing as the island prepares to debate its electric future next week, Policy & Resources says.

Environment & Infrastructure wants the States to agree that a new electricity cable direct to France from Guernsey, a fixed offshore wind farm, and moves to streamline and reduce costs for the installation of solar panels should be how the island powers itself into the future.

But Policy & Resources is now warning that deputies should be mindful of the potential huge costs, estimated to be around £1.7bn, being passed on just days before its debated. 

“The States must exercise caution in its approach to a Policy Letter that does not at this stage have a clear funding plan attached to it, and which subject to the Funding and Investment Plan debate in October the States may not be able to afford in its current form,” President Deputy Peter Ferbrache said in a letter.

But it was accepted that in approving the strategy the States is not committing into any set project or spending, but rather just strategic direction for the island.

E&I maintain that its plan would be hundreds of millions of pounds cheaper than alternatives, such as continuing with the current means of importing and generating electricity.

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Pictured: P&R will seek States support to enter fresh conversations with Jersey over future electricity supplies in the Channel.

Deputy Ferbrache also revealed the Committee wants to investigate a major piece of cross-Channel Island joint working.

P&R will ask the States to agree to enter discussions with Jersey’s government to explore “closer collaboration” over energy resilience, with the possibility of merging Guernsey and Jersey Electricity into a single entity.

Such a review should look at the “benefits and challenges” of doing so, but the Committee argued that it could improve energy resilience and be a boost for consumers.

“The Policy & Resources Committee’s view is that the challenges will be more readily met by a much more collaborative approach on infrastructure and delivery,” Deputy Peter Ferbrache. 

“Greater energy independence should be considered from a Channel Islands community perspective, not solely from a Guernsey perspective.” 

P&R also criticised E&I in its letter for not developing market framework plans - aimed to ensure Guernsey Electricity remains the sole local provider but in a way that allows new renewable firms to help source power - closely with Jersey and said itself and Economic Development will have do so if the States proceed with the proposal.

It also wants E&I to make sure its hopes to incentivise the installation of solar panels, with a view to generate up to 10% this way, can be absorbed by local firms’ supply chain capacity, and requested for further consultation to that end.

Deputy Ferbrache requested it to quickly add-in proposals to temporarily eliminate stand-by charges, which cover wider network costs for customer who generate themselves, for renewable installations up to 2026 to see if it helps in that vein. 

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Deputy Ferbrache rejected fears that its work investigating leasing parts of the island’s seabed out to private developers doesn’t undermine the Strategy and said updates will be public soon with a view to have a final agreement by 2025 at the latest.

The Committee say it will continue to “attract offshore wind developers… given its mandate in relation to seabed leasing, and the ongoing discussions with the Law Officers’ Chambers and the Crown Estates”. 

Deputy Ferbrache said P&R is supportive of setting up a commission on renewable energy, provided it is as arm’s length from government as possible.

Guernsey Electricity commented this week it remains fully behind the Strategy and hopes it is “implemented without delay”. 

The Electricity Strategy will be debated by the States Assembly from Wednesday 6 September.

E&I have been approached for comment.

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