At the time of the offer, there was widespread and regular power outages that created much discomfort and annoyance to Kittitians, both at their personal homes and business places. Since then the Department that controlled the utility services has been transformed into a government owned corporation, but still the complaints have continued, mostly about the increasing cost of the service. The level of outages though has however seen a reduction.
Now that the country is again facing another election, which some predict will be held no later than July this year, the focus again seems to be shifting to electricity and the government too has been paying attention, as evident in their recent announcement that they intend to reduce the cost to the public. A few months ago however, further increases had been announced by the St. Kitts Electricity Company, (SKELEC), citing extra costs associated with government fees that they planned to pass on to consumers.
No date has been release however to indicate exactly when consumers will see this cost reduction, but some observers feel that it should be expected in a matter of weeks, ahead of the pending elections.
During a post Cabinet briefing on Monday 8th April, Minister of Information Nigel Carty, promised that further information pertaining to this matter will follow as to when this reduction will take effect.
Carty also indicated that Energy Minister, Dr. Asim Martin had reported to Cabinet that the government is proposing to subsidize the fuel charge to all residential consumers, and this will be done in a manner to promote efficient use of electricity.
Certain criteria for the reduction were outlined and these include:
• Consumers burning less than 250KWh will pay zero fuel charge and additionally will benefit from further reductions in the principal part of their electricity bills. This intervention will benefit 65% of all residential consumers.
• Persons using between 250 and 350Kwh will pay only half (or 50%) of the fuel charge;
• Persons consuming between 350 and 450KWh will pay 60% of the fuel charge;
• Persons burning between 450 and 500KWh will pay 70% of the fuel charge;
• Consumers using between 500 and 800KWh will have to pay 80% of the fuel charge;
• Beyond 800KWh, residential consumers will have to pay 90% of the fuel charge.
Minister Martin explained that the high cost of fuel on the world market is driven by demand or consumption, and consumers all over the world, St. Kitts and Nevis included, have a responsibility to reduce their consumption of electricity in order to push the price of fuel downwards.
Martin who is also the Deputy Prime Minister proposed two initiatives. Firstly, a project for immediate implementation but which will have long-term impact will provide low interest, long-term loans for the purchase of solar energy systems for up to 600 residential consumers in the first instance. The term of the loan of approximately EC$15,000 will be 5% for 10 to 20 years which will mean a monthly payment of about EC$100 to EC$160 with no down-payment.
For consumers using electricity beyond a certain threshold, this is a very viable option to reduce electricity cost and to contribute to the development of the emerging renewable energy sector in the country as electricity generated in excess by these solar energy systems will be sold back into the grid and monies collected for it.
The fine details on the criteria for accessing this program will be made available at the Ministry of Energy at the Needs Must Office.
The federal Government has also committed itself to providing very strong support to the geothermal energy project in Nevis to harness the benefits of a much cheaper source of energy over the long term. The analysis shows that taking all things into consideration, outputs of electricity from the geothermal energy project can decrease the price of electricity to as low as 15 cents per Kwh.
Wind energy, said martin, is another option under consideration and he stated that Cabinet has given provisional approval for the completion of the final phases of a wind energy development project to be developed in Belle Vue mountain.