UNC shocked by proposed rise in electricity rates

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Proposed electricity rates as suggested by the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) at a media conference at the Hilton Trinidad, Port of Spain, on Thursday. – ROGER JACOB

POINT a Pierre MP David Lee expressed shock at the Regulated Industries Commission’s (RIC) proposal to increase electricity rates saying that the timing was totally wrong for such a measure, especially in the midst of local and international economic downturns.

“The government is now asking us as a population to bear the burden of electricity rates as high as 64 per cent,” Lee lamented. “What that would do, just like the reduction of the fuel subsidy resulting in higher prices at the pumps, is there would be a higher cost of living, at a time where people are barely surviving.

“It is wicked of this government to want to increase electricity rates at this point in time.

“What we (the UNC) are saying, is that you have to know what your priorities are and when you are going to place the burden on the population. And now is not the right time.”

Lee described the Christmas season as the worst in years, because there was minimal spending by customers owing to uncertainty of the challenges 2023 would bring.

“When you have to pay commercial rates and you have small-business owners who are struggling to keep their businesses alive, and with property tax on its way and these other increases how do they expect the businesses to survive?”

He said the RIC and the Government should take a holistic approach to implementing increases given the current economic and social conditions in TT. He noted that while the RIC had proposed a rate, government did not have to implement it.

He also said Government should look at the finances of the country before implementing the increase. He also suggested that smaller rate increases over a period of time may be more palatable to the public.

“Imagine you are asking someone tomorrow to pay a 60 or 50 or 40 per cent increase in their electricity rates. That is ridiculous. We are not against the rate increases but let us be reasonable.

“At the end of the day, the onus is on the government, and the population has had enough. Every other day this government is trying to eek out income from the poor man on the street who is struggling to survive.”

On Thursday the RIC revealed its proposed electricity rate increases as mandated by the RIC Act.

With the current rates, a household consuming 200 kW/h for two months would have a $58 bill. With the proposed changes in the charges, that same household would have a $71 bill, a 22 per cent increase.

For the average home which has an estimated usage of 600 kW/h according to officials in the RIC, the current rates would mean that the home would have to pay a $174 bill. The proposed changes would increase that bill to $207, a 19 per cent jump.

For residences using 7,000 kW/h, the current rates would mean that the household would have a $2,522 bill. With the proposed changes the rates would increase by 64 per cent, to $4,139.

For businesses the rates are even higher. Commercial entities using electricity at a rate of 500 kW/h would currently pay $232.50 bi-monthly. The new rates would bump their charges up by 63 per cent or $147.50, to $380.

If a commercial entity is using 1,500 kW/h, it would currently pay $647.50 every two months. That bill will increase by 54 per cent, or $352.50 to $1,000. On the higher end of consumption, about 5,000 kW/h, the rates will increase by 51 per cent, from $2,100 to 3,170, a difference of $1,070. For businesses consuming more than 5,000 kW/h increases in rates would range between 10 per cent and 11 per cent of the current rates.

Both Callendar and RIC Executive Director Glenn Khan made it a point to highlight that despite the increases TT still has the lowest rates in the region, second only to Suriname.

Khan added the RIC determined its rates based on what they determined was affordable, especially for low-income homes.

Ozzy Warwick, chief education and research officer of the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU) said the average citizen should not have to face higher electricity rates in the first instance.

“Our position has always been that rate increases should start with commercial and industrial entities. Ordinary people should not be made to take that burden at this point in the context of the hardships that they are already facing.”

The OWTU represents the workers of the TT Electricity Company (TTEC).