Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock says St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) can learn from St. Lucia lessons on how to reduce electricity cost.
Speaking at a press conference recently, Leacock pointed to a Feb. 16 report in the regional media, in which it was announced that St Lucians will be paying less for electricity, as a result of a 2.6 cent reduction in the tariff for 2013.
Leacock said that the development in St. Lucia supports his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) proposals for reduced electricity cost in St. Vincent.
“This information squares well with the position that we in the New Democratic Party have been advocating for the past several months, that it requires a public policy position to jolt the management of the local electricity company, VINLEC, into a different approach for determining the cost of electricity and the sale of electricity to its consumers,” said Leacock, who is the NDP’s lead spokesperson on energy matters.
He said that hearing about lower electricity bills “is like magic in St. Vincent,” adding, “we have been told repeatedly by the management of VINLEC that the cost of electricity cannot be reduced.”
Leacock, who is a former human resources manager at VINLEC, further restated his criticism of VINLEC’s continued used of 1973 as the base year for the calculation of its fuel surcharge.
Leacock said he has repeatedly said that the problem is not only with the surcharge, adding that VINLEC must also address the question of the basic charge.
“And here we have the confirmation that St. Lucia has been able to put the basic cost down,” he said, adding that id the basic charge goes down, the surcharge is also reduced.
“So, it is two for the price of one,” said Leacock, who is a former human resource manager at VINLEC.
He said that he has argued in SVG that is useless and out-dated, to use data from 1973 as the basis for calculating the fuel surcharge.
In St. Lucia, the base year is 2013.
“In other words, their accountants understand the wisdom of using the average price for fuel and determining the base,” Leacock said, adding that the fuel surcharge in 2014, in St. Lucia, for February has been reduced by half a cent.
He said this was possible because St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) has been able to receive fuel in 2013 at a lower cost that 2012.
The reductions in St. Lucia are largely due to a fuel price hedging programme that LUCILEC has been using over the past five years.
The fuel price hedging programme is designed to reduce large fluctuations in the fuel surcharge
“… if St. Lucia can do it on their own, there must be potential for us…,” Leacock said, even as he spoke of a regional approach to fuel price hedging, with a view to driving electricity prices down.
“The fuel cost, the basic cost and the surcharge is not simply a matter of politics and the Vincentians consumers but more fundamentally the competitiveness of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, initially in the OECS region, our immediate economic space, and naturally, beyond St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to allow … for us to have an export-led economy to create jobs and opportunities for our young men and young women and to have in place the safety nets and programme that is desirable for a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Leacock, however, noted, that the basic cost of electricity in St. Vincent is twice that of SVG, but overall St. Lucians pay less for electricity.
“There are all other sets of permutations not of relevance this morning. The fundamental point that I want to say is that electricity cost can go down, and should go down through public policy, management efficiencies, and engineering considerations and that we in the New Democratic Party will continue to investigate and work towards a better deal, not just for the consumers, but in recognition of the fact consumers of electricity in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also the shareholders of the company VINLEC and that far greater attention should be paid to the quality of service and the way that they are attended to as a people,” he said.
VINLEC told Vincentians in January to expect higher fuel surcharge because of damage to its hydro plants by the Christmas floods.
The NDP called on VINLEC to pay for the excess fuel from its own monies.
VINLEC later said it would subside the increased fuel surcharge to the tune of EC$10 million over the next year or so.
Mr Leacock is one of the guys who knows what he is talking about. But the issue that we have in SVG is that the government doesn’t want lower cost of electricity for Vincentians, it’s the income gained from the Electricity and fuel sales that are paying for most of the essential services in SVG, it’s the goose that is laying the golden egg, so they actually want us to pay more, so they could collect more.
I read a post by a gentleman on The movement’s facebook page about hedging oil with Dericatives and although it’s a good idea, the problem is that the government already has the perfect hedge, and that is petrocaribe. With petrocaribe the Ralph Gonsalves administration is putting the debt of our country in the future, and that is the greatest hedge in history, when you hedge against your Kids and grandkids future all the while playing politics and pretending to know what you are doing. Nothing can be better than that, and can only be done by someone who doesn’t care what happens to the country when they leave office, that debt is going to make svg ungovernable, we will be like Jamaica and Trinidad.
If you think SVG is bad now just wait until the petrocaribe debt comes home to roost, with the cost of servicing the internation airport, the billions of dollars of debt we are racking up,and the hundreds of millions we owe to Venezuela, SVG will never be the same. The extent at which these guys have wrecked SVG has not even started to come seriously yet. SVG is going to have to repay upwards of hundreds on millions of dollars in debt in the future.
Sadly I believe a lot of these politicians are going to run out of SVG and leave the mess for the other generation, but someone has to answer for all the corruption and nepotism that has taken place here, so we can at least look at our kids and grandkids and not feel ashamed of what we let happen in our beloved country.
CORRECTION: “Trinidadian oil” should have been “Trinidadian natural gas”
I agree with Leacock’s position on electricity costs, however I know the problem goes much deeper than that. Let me explain.
In 2002, my building project was stopped and consequently I had a bit of cash on hand and needed to decide how to invest it so I engaged Raymond James Advisors of the US to get advice. What I was told by them and what Vincentians later experienced told me everything I wanted to know about our Government.
Raymond James Advisors sent me a package of about 150 pages 40 of which were particularly germane to electricity prices in St.Vincent so I photocopied those 40 pages and dropped copies off to VINLEC and the Ministry of Communications and Works and to the Ministry of Finance.
Those 40 pages showed that oil prices were set to rise precipitously and consequently electric companies in the US were running away from buying generators which operated only on oil. They were only installing generators which could use both oil and natural gas or just natural gas. At that time the US had not found the large quantities of natural gas it later found. The US was planning to depend on Trinidadian oil piped through a pipeline to be built by an Australian company called BHP Billiton. That pipeline was slated to run in the sea up to Florida. Some islands like Barbados and Antigua had applied for connection.
Not St.Vincent. Not only that but we were planning a new generating plant at Lowmans Bay and I repeatedly asked government officials whether the generator would be able to use natural gas and I was assured it would. I later found out it is dedicated to using only oil. Oil went from about $18 a barrel to over $100.
After I confirmed for myself that those in position had no interest in planning ahead for St. Vincent, eventually in 2006 I decided to take personal precautions. So the following year I purchased solar panels (which were nearly 4 times as expensive as they are today) and also the rest of the system. So I now produce 95% of my needs through solar and slipped out from under the thumb of a bad government. The savings for me has paid for the system.
If we have people in government who are not focused on the needs of the people and the people are not focused on what government is or is not doing then the entire country suffers.
There is a lack of serious thinking in the Government of St.Vincent and where the PM is chairman of the board of LIAT how can we expect LIAT to ever be profitable or efficient or be to the good of our people? Nor can VINLEC.
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