The unknown costs from Costa Rica electric companies for solar customers
Costa Rica Solar Solutions has permitted hundreds of homes and commercial business over our 15 years in the solar industry. One of the major problems in permitting systems is the power given to the electric companies in the process of permits. ARESEP (Autoridad Reguladora De Los Servicios Publicos) and MINAE (Ministry of Environment and Energy) are the government controllers over the electric companies and do a good job in most cases, however distributed generation (net metering) is a tricky subject (politically and because of unions).
Currently Costa Rica’s net metering policy is a presidential decree and is in the process of being updated and changed. However there are some congress members that are structuring a law to benefit the consumer and expected to be seen before December 2020. Prior to 2015 CR had a Piloto Program which was only implemented in ICE territory ( 1 for 1 kWh with NO tariff.).
The net metering policy is a good compared to other markets around the world. 1 for 1 kWh, low tariff rate between .03 and .05 cents per kWh. Clients will see a fast return of investment because of the raising cost of energy and rates compared to Hawaii or California. The 49% rule is a big part of the problem with the presidential net metering decree and gives the electric companies a way to create barriers for the consumer.
Who are the players?
Costa Rica has 4 electric coops (Coopesantos, Coopealfaro, CoopeGuanacaste, Coopelesca), 2 private (Jasec and Esph ) and 2 government owned electric companies (Grupo ICE and CNFL).
The coops have the ability to generate their own energy and sell between them, however they must purchase a contractual amount from ICE.
Costa Rica has a law 7200 that states Grupo ICE is the only supplier of energy to the coops. However, four coops can generate and send power between them. https://orkustofnun.is/gogn/unu-gtp-sc/UNU-GTP-SC-02-18.pdf
What barriers have we seen with the electric companies
- Remote meters The electric companies have been using multiple different technologies for remote meters and what is good for one company is not good for another. They can be as expensive as $2,000 and as low as $800. The rule is if you can’t get the production meter out to the street you will need a remote meter. Recently CoopeGuanacaste (without any noticed) stopped selling the remote meter for $800 and stated we will need to buy them from another vender. Click Here for more info
- Increase in permitting cost Permitting process for the electric companies vary, ICE and CNFL now will charge $1,000 when it used to be only $60.00, CoopeGuanacaste charges one month of your electric bill as a warranty for your meters.
- 15% Rule The process for permitting starts out with a study of the electrical grid circuit and if the percentage is more than 15% renewable the electric company can deny the net metering process. This does not mean you can’t put a solar system in with energy storage! We have had only 1 system denied because of the 15% rule. The electric companies for a long time didn’t publish the circuit, however recently one company has.
- Who oversees disputes with the electric company? Currently MINAE and ARSEP has thrown up their hands and will not move forward on disputes between the electric company and the consumer. MINAE states that if the consumer has no contract with the electric company they can’t help. ARSEP states because it is not a public contract they won’t help.
Is Solar worth it in Costa Rica?
100% YES, because the rate of .03 to .05 cents per kWh is the lowest in the country! Costa Rica has a policy under 250 kWh is .17 cents per kWh which is subsidized. Even if you have an electric car and charge after 8 pm it is .17 cents per kWh. CRSS has many clients paying 98% less than if they didn’t have solar! Net metering policy around the world has and will always be a problem for the electric companies and this is why energy storage is becoming popular.