Last Friday marked World Solar Energy Day which went unnoticed in Cyprus, ironically the EU member state with the highest rate of solar radiation per year.
All the fuss about natural gas and the plants that need to be built for cleaner power generation in the future has overshadowed the potential use of the single source of free energy that Cyprus enjoys for 360 days a year – solar.
However, Cyprus taxpayers may soon be called to foot the bill of painfully high fines for not implementing the EU directive for alternative energy use, while we do almost nothing to encourage the development and installation of solar energy collectors on the island.
Our commitment is that by the year 2010, 9% of all energy consumption should be derived from renewable sources of energy (wind, solar, biofuels), while 6% of all electricity consumption should also come from alternative sources to fossil fuels. Although local production from photovoltaic panels almost doubled in 16 months to 951 kilowatts in March this year, it is still a fraction of the EAC’s power production that is estimated at a thousand times more.
Despite the state subsidising 55% of the purchase value of photovoltaic cells and EAC buying your excess production at 12c per kilowatt-hour, there is an incomprehensible hesitation on the part of the government’s Energy Dept. to promote solar energy production. And this, despite the EUR 5,95 mln approved by the European Commission from its Cohesion Fund for 2007-2013.
A recent study by the Terra Cypria Institute puts forward all the right arguments for solar energy –it is produced most at the highest demand period of summer, it does not pose storage or installation problems, it does not require environmental impact studies, it does not result in any public outcry and secures easy permits from the Town Planning Authority. If all cost factors are calculated, particularly as crude (and subsequently natural gas) prices have soared in the past decade, solar makes for the most economical source of energy in the long run.
The present administration should fast-track plans to create an independent Energy Commissioner to coordinate planning, policy and regulatory issues, and to introduce new energy-saving measures ranging from the simplest mandatory solar power units on all government buildings and adding solar-powered street lamps to the island’s road networks, to promoting the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy, starting with buildings, lighting and the power grid. The European Commission has already announced that it will encourage the ICT industry to demonstrate leadership in reducing its own CO2 emissions and by identifying and creating solutions that will benefit the whole economy through a high growth, low carbon environment.
All the government has to do is to focus on energy intensive sectors such as generation and distribution; heating, cooling and lighting of buildings; and more efficient electricity production and use. This will at least help sooth the pain of costly electricity and energy bills at home and in the workplace.
By Financial Mirror 21/05/2008