GPA: Public schools on solar power could adversely affect all ratepayers

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At a roundtable hearing, Guam Power Authority officials told lawmakers that GDOE doesn't have the knowledge to contract and that solar-powered schools will have adverse consequences for all Guam residents.

Department of Education officials say they want the authority to contract solar panel companies for Guam schools. But at a roundtable hearing yesterday, Guam Power Authority officials told lawmakers, that GDOE doesn’t have the knowledge to contract and that solar-powered schools will have consequences for all Guam residents.

In what became a back-and-forth between GPA and GDOE officials, Guam Power said that with its expertise, it should take the lead on contracting in order to get GDOE the best energy rates and contract terms.

But education officials countered that point, saying Bill 196, the bill in discussion at the roundtable, actually has a clause for GPA to lead in technical advice and provide support, but ultimately, GDOE could go at the contracts alone.

GPA’s major worry for GDOE going solar is a loss of millions of dollars in revenue for GPA, ultimately affecting the common ratepayer.

Simon Sanchez, CCU commissioner, said: “It could be a shift of $5 to $6 million dollars to the other ratepayers, depending on how far we take GDOE in this process. And the key thing I want to leave with you as an impression is that the grid really comes into play with solar, when you have 5 or 6 days of rain in a row. Solar can’t make energy, and everyone who has solar, uses that grid to get energy from us in order to keep their lights on. So the grid costs people… it costs Guam.”

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GDOE pays around $13 million dollars a year in energy costs. They claim they can half that bill by employing solar energy at their schools.

GPA says it’s not opposed to schools in Guam going solar, but that the Public Utilities Commission should set the rate per kilowat so that GDOE pays its fair share to the power grid.

Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez said it is not the school system’s intention to negatively impact the public utility, but that GDOE desperately needs to cut costs to invest in their failing infrastructure and maintenance.

A similar legislation being debated, Bill 219, would see the solar power contracting authority extended to other educational institutions, like the University of Guam and Guam Community College.

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