Legislation changes may give St Lucia consumers electricity rate ease

CASTRIES,  St Lucia, Friday January 25, 2013 – The St. Lucia government says it will amend existing legislation governing the operations of the St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC), the sole electricity company, as it moves to provide consumers with relief from the high electricity rates.

“LUCLEC has to understand when there are good times, they enjoy the good times but when there are bad times, it too must make the adjustment for the sake of the people of the country.

“It’s an issue I have raised with them. It is well known that I have said that LUCELEC can no longer enjoy any longer statutory comfort for specific profit levels. This is not the era for that kind of statutory arrangement,” Anthony said.

Anthony said that his administration would be forced to amend the existing legislation in addition to exploring alternative forms of energy if the company maintains its high rates to consumers.

In a statement following his recent visit to Venezuela where he discussed accessing the benefits of PetroCaribe, an initiative through which Caracas offers oil on concessionary terms to participating countries, Prime Minister Anthony said that as far as he is concerned LUCLEC’s electricity rates whatever the logic maybe, are unacceptably high.

In addition to being the sole provider of electricity here, LUCELEC by reason of the Electricity Supply Act No 10 of 1994 is guaranteed a return on its investment through an electricity surcharge.

LUCELEC shareholders include the Canadian-based Emera, First Citizens Bank Ltd. National Insurance Corporation, the Castries City Council and the St. Lucia government.

In a statement posted on its website late last year, LUCELEC said electricity rates in St. Lucia were  among the lowest in the Caribbean and quoted the “latest Tariff Study Report produced by CARILEC, the Caribbean Electric Utility Service Corporation” to support its position.

It said the CARILEC report showed that for the first half of 2012, St. Lucia had the lowest electricity rates for residential customers among the 14 reporting countries.

“Residential customers using 100 or 400 kilowatt hours (kWh) or units in St. Lucia enjoyed better rates than their counterparts in the other OECS territories, Curacao, Barbados, St. Marten, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Turks & Caicos Islands, the US Virgin Islands and Bermuda which were among the countries submitting data for the study,” it said.

Prime Minister Anthony said moving to amend legislation governing LUCLEC’s operations would be just one aspect of the government’s intervention to bring about a change in the current electricity rates.

“At the same time too we would want to explore what LUCLEC calls alternative sources of energy. Of course the kind of fuel you get from Venezuela does poses some challenges because often the turbines that they (LUCELEC) use to provide electricity may require specific kinds of fuel and one would have to make certain adjustments to determine whether if we import the fuel from Venezuela adjustments would be required by LUCELEC.

“But given the larger picture and given what is likely to happen to the Hess transhipment terminal (here) it is vital that we ensure that we pursue our strategic objectives and in all of this we have to work together,” he added. (CMC)