An interesting debate is ramping up in the halls of the Guam Legislature.
Since the late 1970's, discussion of Guam moving towards the use of renewable energy sources to support the island's power needs has came and went like the tides of the ocean. Former Governor Ricky Bordallo had urged a younger staff member, now retired-Guam Superior Court Justice and current Guam Senator B.J. Cruz to find a way to make this effort come to fruition. It was stonewalled by the fledgling Guam Power Authority. Over the next 30 years, talks and studies and more discussion and duplicative white papers would fill the GPA archives. Today, the Harmon headquarters of the now Consolidated Utilities Service is taking on more of the same. What is different there than what was working on the next source of energy for Guam? Older engineers.
Their work or lack of work was put on display as debate started this week on Bill 74-32 by the Guam Legislature. While there is a mandate that sets the bar on how much of our island's power system should be of a sustainable technology, this newest law is forcing the use of renewable energy on a single customer and the largest of consumers-the Guam Department of Education.
With a $15 million annual power bill, policy makers have pulled their collective hair out for years to stop the rising costs of power and use the money towards basic essentials for education like books, desks, pencils and other learning materials. Did you know that of that amount, $10 million is for fuel costs? That leaves the dreaded $5 million portion for what the technocrats call "stranded costs". There has been many ways to describe this complex term for "operational costs". Simply put it is the administration of the power bill and the other responsibilities to keep the lights on for all power customers. It is this part of the Guam Department of Education Bill that is bring protected like a newborn baby by GPA.
They absolutely do not want to let this go.
GPA claims the impacts to their payment of revenue bonds would be impacted. GPA claims that they will pass along this cost to rate payers who would shoulder the loss of this important piece of revenue. Did I mention that the $10 million is for fuel? GPA claims that they cannot administer renewable energy as they are short of qualified staff to do so. The Guam Legislature is very eager to establish this important public policy. They were miffed by a lack of input by GPA-five months of neglect. The Bill is on the agenda as a statement by lawmakers that they are willing and able to bring a modern law forward to keep Guam in pace with other communities around the world that have made the effort to bring meaningful renewable energy policy to the forefront and move in lockstep with the rest of the world who is struggling as well with rising fossil fuel costs.
Adding to the drama on Bill 74-32, is a subversive element in our community that is trying to make a buck as a fragile policy is just about to see the light of day. While I have no problem with capitalism, I do have a problem when such aims will cause great harm to the new Green Guam Industry before it even has had a chance to grow. A few businessmen have already shown that knowledge of the costs renewable energy can make a lump in their wallets before a system is ever put in operation. Like minded "industry partners" have shown their true colors as they have made a minor-league attempt to influence sustainable public policy. It is the "I know" and "This is how we do it in BLANK!".
Bill 74-32 will be made whole by those with major-league experience in this type of politics and push the renewable energy industry forward in Guam for the best of everyone. Does not sound too capitalistic? My bet is with the movement to take Guam closer to its destiny to become a leader in this new industry in the years to come and the example for the rest of Micronesia.