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By Donald De Riggs

Jimmy Cliff once sang, “There are more questions than answers, and the more I find out, the less I know”,.

This expresses the feelings of many Vincentians when it comes to utility bills, especially bills for electricity used. Many consumers now feel that they are being charged twice. How can that be? Consumers are charged for the amount of units used, called the “energy charge”, then charged VAT if the amount of units exceeds 150 KWh and then the iniquitous and questionable fuel surcharge.

In school, when we were taught about pricing/costing in business entrepreneurial studies, the “per unit” selling cost/price of any item included all costs, including the cost of production*, cost of transportation*, any duties required by the government if it is an imported item and, of course, a reasonable profit which hovers in the range of 30% of the consolidated cost (when you add up everything). Now that’s what constitutes the “energy charge” that appears on your VINLEC bill (which will be sent electronically after the end of May 2022, but I wonder how some consumers will be billed electronically when they only have lights but no computers or smartphones in their homes?). *Fuel included.   

But why an additional fuel surcharge, when the cost of fuel has already been factored into the “energy charge”? It just does not make sense, but it adds up to what we are forced to pay. The speculation is that all consumers are being made to pay for the electricity used by street lights, schools, hospitals, clinics and government institutions, some of which have lights, air conditioners and fridges running 24/7. Ever wondered how much electricity is consumed by street lights alone?  

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The move to use LED lights instead of sodium vapour lights helps to reduce the total KWh and carbon footprint, but the investment should have been to use solar powered LED street lights which are widely used in Dominica and elsewhere, which would bring the consumption of electricity by street lights generated by diesel to ZERO, ultimately reducing the wicked fuel surcharge on our monthly bills. Many years ago we never had a fuel surcharge, as the fuel cost was already factored into the “energy charge”, so how can the fuel surcharge now be more than two thirds of ‘energy charge’ as it is on some bills ?

It is now the opinion of many Vincentians, including myself, that any new building should be off grid, with VINLEC only as a back up. Concessions for the importation of renewable energy devices must be a policy of the government to encourage our country to “go green”. Besides being unsightly and vulnerable to storms, utility poles, copper lines and transformers need regular maintenance, with the last mentioned causing interference to sensitive electronic equipment including communications devices that are used by radio amateurs who provide a valuable service to humanity, especially in the aftermath of any disaster.  

Following complaints by the amateur radio community in St. Kitts, the court has ordered the company using electronic metres to cease operations of that type of metre as they create a lot of interference hampering communications across the radio frequency (RF) spectrum. This follows testing by their telecommunications regulatory organisation that the electronic meters were the direct cause of the RF interference. Similarly, we should resist similar moves here, unless these metres are fitted with filters to block unwanted RF interference.  

It should not be difficult for Vincentians to grasp the concept of renewable energy. We have had a legacy of using renewable energy in the past — hydro, wind and solar.  There is still ample evidence in the form of water wheels and aqueducts used to grind sugar cane, and on the eastern coast of the island, like Ratho Mill, Rawacou and Grenadines there is still evidence of the windmills used to grind the cane.  Solar energy is still being used as it was in those days to dry cocoa, corn, fish and to make copra. The cost of solar panels is now quite affordable, electricity can now be produced and stored for both day and nighttime use, so what are we waiting for?  Union Island is a prime example of how that can be done.

Today, we use river water to produce electricity at three locations — Richmond, South Rivers and Cumberland — but more efficient turbines can be placed on the existing lines to use the same water five or more times to increase the generation of electricity, instead of just three as is the case in the Cumberland hydro project. The investment must be in renewable energy going forward. Give the concessions to both locals and investors for new and retrofitting projects. It will also create employment opportunities for our young people. We have not yet discussed our wave energy potential which is now a maturing technology, with our eastern sea coast “ripe for harvesting”. This technology has minimal impact on the marine environment.

‘Nuff said for now and e’nuff to chew on.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

19 replies on “We need real answers about VINLEC bills ”

  1. Meek and Mild says:

    I have come to realize the Government of SVG is very stupid and backward and has no real intentions of advancing living standards in SVG. For the amount of income people get it is the most expensive place to live in the region. Even imported Vincys, if they have money, have more benefits than ordinary Vincentians. I will say here again for the Nth time, what is happening in the Grenadines is unfair to Vincentians. The PM treats the status quo as a joke only making empty promises, outright fooling people and even has newspapers under very heavy manners. Nothing in SVG is regulated fairly and Just even the Police and the Judiciary is a joke. Crime figures are alarming to most people but to gov’t it is business as usual. Don’t even talk about the Churches, they are a bunch of hypocrites and thieves operating for their own benefit.

  2. Donald I agree totally with your views on electricity and what it was and still is doing to Vincentians. I encouraged the people of Bequia to get together and buy solar panels to avoid the charge that was placed on another bill.
    I spoke to a person from Bequia who lives in Canada and was complaining about the bill. Sad to say he did nothing and didn’t even pass the idea and information to his siblings and friends in Bequia.
    I also pointed out the wind channel between the grenadines and SVG has enough power to give the island some freedom from importing oil and gas from Venezuela. Of course such ideas and opinions are kicked in the garbage can. I have no sympathy for Vincentians because they are afraid to speak out when issues like this come up.
    Below is a portion of my BLOG where I addressed the same issues in your article. The money the folks have to pay can be used to get a loan to use solar panels. Guess what! After they have paid off the loan then there are no bills and the panels are theirs.
    What’s so difficult in going down that road?
    Read my Blog and feel free to pass it on.
    Oh oh oh! The Website is not working, I tried to register and can’t because it allows people from the US and SVG only. All they have to do is remove the word “REQUIRED from many of the fields they have created for ones address and other information.
    Good job Donald. I hope you can convince Vincentians to go SOLAR.

  3. NATIONALIST says:

    I support your article 100% on the highway robbery that Vincentians are subjected to by Vinclec over the years. It is a fact the pricing of the product contains all the expenses that go to bringing the product to the consumer inorder for the producer/business of the product to generate a profit. In St Vincent and the Grenadines as the article points out the fuel surcharge appears to be worked in the pricing twice since it is in the original price of the energy charge and also it comes solo on the bill for electricity too. What is important here, last billing cycle most people if not everyone would note that the fuel surcharge is more that the energy charge. I have never noticed this anytime before. Usually, I will compare my energy charge and the fuel surcharge to guage their behavior. This new observation has lead me to think that the fuel that we are using which is imported from Venezuela – I assume – it is suffering from market speculation because of the war in Europe. In my opinion this should not be in our case since the production of fuel in Venezuela should not have been affected by the war to be impacted by this factor.
    Anyway, when all is said and done the way electricity is produced and distributed in this country need to revamped inorder to reduce the cost of production, distribution and consumption. It is high time that governance is used for the enhancement of the public welfare and not the gutting of the public welfare as is done by successive governments over the years.

  4. Romans 13:12 KJV — The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

  5. I wonder the same thing too why do I have to pay for for energy that I used and also pay for the fuel which is supposed to be the company’s cost to me it seem as if we paying for a service and also payiny to run the their business

  6. Vinlec is raking havoc on vincentians pocket…but only who feels it knows it…this is not the case for the powers that be

  7. Surcharge is based on the cost of generation for the entire country. Therefore hotels and other industries using electricity should by LAW be made to generate at least 50% of their electrical need from solar.
    As a small resident , I will always have to absorb ( penalized) some of the cost of electricity generated to power those hotels. Grossly unfair.

  8. Litebill gane op salaree sta d saime or gandung, is 5 ina row yo bin want naw yo gye tit up yo arse.

  9. Lord, they do it every time, beating the beast of burden to death; As usual, their excuse will be – it is not our fault, everything gone up all over the world for everybody – then they would compare SVG to some other island maybe Haiti or even Covid 19 or hurricanes. They can’t say it is Soufriere this time. It is time for change and progress not abuse and empty promises which most of the time only benefit the already rich and the governing class.

  10. I went to the office and try to SHAME them in front of all the customers, but I NOTICE they don’t have any, I came home from LONDON and found they charge me 200 more units than what the meter was reading, all of us should REFUSE TO PAY THE BILL UNTIL THEY PUT THINGS RIGHT

  11. Interesting read although most historic references are not applicable in this scenario. Additionally the author, as most people, does not fully understand the fuel surcharge issue so it is easily made the victim. I do agree that more can be done to develop alternative sources ie green energy and nore energy-efficient devices. All of this comes at a cost. If the government decides to go down that path the next question that will be asked would be ‘do Vincentians want to invest in long term green energy for the future or do they want to feel immediate relief in their pockets?’

  12. Donny Barrow says:

    While we all hate high electricity bills, I’d encourage the writer to do a bit of research before writing.

    Just on the comment that new houses should be off-grid. Are you aware of the installed cost of a reliable off-grid solar system for the average home?

    For those saying that we shouldn’t have a fuel surcharge, how do you propose that VINLEC allows for the massive increase in the cost of fuel? Do a quick Google search on the price of oil over the past 10 years for some insight.

    Criticism is necessary, so get the facts straight before critsising so that you can be taken seriously.

  13. Kenroy Davis says:

    Vinlec need to do better than this. I never like the idea of vinlec using fuel to provide energy. We are in the Caribbean,we are expose to the three elements of energy which is wind water and solar why can’t they set up more hydro stations some wind turbines in the windy areas and solar panels to at least reduce the high cost to electricity? We need to leave fuel for those cold countries who don’t have rivers and consistency is sunlight. We vincentains have more needly things to do with our salaries than to be paying in for fuel charges that even ain’t necessary.

  14. There needs to be some looking into how the energy rates are calculated. But from the way our utility grid is designed. Anywhere from 5-15% of the electricity generated it being lost through transmission. Vinlec is obviously trying to address this, while increasing total output around the island by upping the amount of high voltage lines and transformers around the island. But you can bet they are not going to replace old lines and transformers for the sake of efficiency. Solar street lights do also make sense. But there have been many cases where these lights have been vandalized or may not be a viable solution due to overhanging vegetation being an issue. On the issue of new buildings being mandated to have solar. That’s an expense most Vincentians can’t afford. Doing so on a government level would be a start. Sadly it has only been done in a few places as only a handful of government buildings can be retrofitted (at a reasonable cost). On a home level, most Vincentians can’t afford solar. A simple 3-5 kW solar home system is about $15000-$25000 (excluding labour).

  15. As a Vincentian living abroad it seems clear that one of the key drivers in this situation is lack of competition in the market place. If Vinlec are the only provider and hold a monopoly on supply and charging strategy…then there is no compulsion on them to guarantee competitive rates to their customers… Yes , agreed, there are underlying cost’s related to the acquisition of crude oil and other consumables – but in countries where there are a number of companies operating and offering customers choice the market, usually regulates itself and prices are stabilized according to the market and not by the will of the company.

  16. Don
    Since 85% of our electricity is diesel generated the base cost of electricity must include some standard fuel cost component. The surcharge is the current market price above that base component.

    I think there is a valid argument for a new rate study to adjust the base cost and reduce the variable monthly surcharge. This will add some sunlight on the rate structure.
    While we are at it we should also have a two-tier rate structure to give to low end users a greater break.

  17. Take warning says:

    “lift svg higher, now light bill gone up higher. Ar yo na bawl yet, who can’t bawl go howl.

Comments closed.