Thu 24th Aug 2006

High electricity prices draining Vincentians

Vinlec is inefficient and will continue to be so until other electricity producers are allowed in SVG. When Vinlec was set up, it was given a monopoly because it was a young company and it was thought it needed time to find its feet. Now, 23 years later, it is still tripping up in a big way. No matter how many prime ministers replace how many sets of boards of directors, it will still be inefficient, because the customer has no one else to switch to. If there were two or three other electricity companies in SVG then Vincentians would not only get a better service, but a cheaper one too.

For over a century Cable and Wireless had a monopoly on phones, then we saw protests against the monopoly and the monopoly was defeated. During Cable and Wireless's monopoly SVG was being drained and not everyone had access to phones. Now there are more phone companies and more people have access to phones and Vincentians get a better and cheaper service. Well, the same needs to happen with Vinlec.

Vincentians are unnecessarily paying too much for electricity and the poor are being excluded from using electricity. Competition will bring prices down. There's no point in Gonsalves lashing out at Vinlec; his energy would be better spent over-turning the law that prohibits other electric companies and then Vincentians would get cheaper electric and an efficient service.

The reliance on oil is short-sighted and makes it impossible for Vinlec to control its prices and consequently Vincentians' electricity bills fluctuate dramatically. To solve this, SVG needs micro-generation of electricity as seen in Finland and Denmark, where small towns and villages produce their own electricity ' this is cheaper, from renewable sources, totally controlled by the inhabitants and the pricing is not at the peril of ever increasing oil prices.

In SVG, individual houses should have their own solar panels and wind turbine to power their lights, hot water and small electrical appliances. Then, when Vinlec wishes to be inefficient or shutdown for a few days, people are not in the dark, do not have to go without and do not get high electricity bills. To help this happen government should either buy solar panels in bulk from abroad and sell them cheaply to people, or get rid of any import tax on solar panels, or provide 'renewable energy' grants for people wishing to do this.

Vinlec's inefficiency and the law stopping competition are seriously hampering the economy too. A thriving small business sector is needed for the SVG economy to be strong, but small businesses will forever find it hard to start up and stay afloat with high overheads, i.e. high electric prices.

Anyone wanting lower electricity bills and a better service should campaign for competition.

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