Health Minister Nickolas Steele has described as “offensive” the reaction of the Management of Grenlec to government’s move in Parliament to regulate the electricity sector and to pave the way for new entrants in the industry.
The utility company, in which U.S-based firm, WRB Enterprises holds the majority shares, has labelled the legislation taken to Parliament by the Keith Mitchell-led government as “politically motivated, ideologically conceived and totally discretionary”.
Over the past 22-years, there has been a running battle between the American company and two high profile members of the ruling New National Party (NNP) on the decision taken by the 1990-93 Congress administration of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite to sell the majority of GRENLEC’s shares to the Tampa-based WRB Enterprises.
According to Minister Steele, the passage of the Electricity Supply Bill in the Lower House of Parliament will not prevent Grenlec from operating successfully in Grenada and he found it offensive some of the statements made by Grenlec in a recent press release issued on the bill.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly Post Cabinet Briefing held at the Ministerial Complex last week Tuesday, the senior government minister said the Grenlec statement is wrong because the passing of this bill is in the best interest of the Grenadian people.
“Unlike the members of Grenlec who (have) framed this, we have a responsibility to the people, not to shareholders…”, he remarked.
“We have been elected by the people and we have to face the polls again and will be judged by the people and the people will judge us not just on the dividends paid by Grenlec but the people will judge us on the environment that we have created”, he said.
Minister Steele alluded to the need for the population to get “social support from their government if they cannot afford to be on the grid for electricity” as provided by GRENLEC.
He said the ruling New National Party (NNP) government believes that it should be in a position “to provide that individual or those individuals with photo voltaic or other forms of electricity generation because they simply cannot pay the private provider”.
The government minister also took offence to Grenlec’s claim in the release that the new bill is primarily based on “an operationally inefficient market design which is contrary to international best standards for standalone island economies like Grenada” and “an undeveloped, expensive, totally discretionary and politically controlled new regulatory process”.
The GRENLEC statement said the “unfortunate results of this ill-conceived scheme will be to increase costs, impair reliability and foster discriminatory treatment for Grenada’s electricity consumers”.
Minister Steele sought to remind WRB Enterprises that it is based in a country where “such monopolies are legislated illegal”.
He said: “What we seek to do, is not to get rid of any investor, what we seek to do is to create an environment that if as has been implied here because of our size of our population, ends up with a sole provider of electricity based on market forces, so be it, but it should be because of a legislation. It should be as a result of fair competition and fair play. In fact, we have maintained this legislation and Grenlec implying that we are a standalone economy.
“…We are members of CARICOM, we are members of an economic unity. No man and no country technically is an island that should remain isolated and should have legislation that isolates any sector. It goes against … the general trend (in the world) and therefore, to have had for years and I can say categorically Grenada being a member of the International Renewable Energy Authority, Grenada has years (to) access any of the benefits of being a member because of the legislative monopoly of Grenlec…”, he added.
Minister Steele pointed out that the legislative monopoly enjoyed by Grenlec “prevents a government to provide electricity to less fortunate people or itself” and that this is “unacceptable”.
He said the move in Parliament “has nothing to do with whether the private entity is welcomed or continues to be welcomed by the government or the people”.
He stated that there are many countries in the region which “have the ability unlike us to have their citizens if they choose to have net metering, go green, and on their own put solar panels on their houses or businesses and make it financially viable”.
He said the passing of the bill will give anyone in Grenada the opportunity to provide electricity and to go through a regulatory authority.
He stressed that the NNP regime believes that the passing of the bill in Parliament will not prevent Grenlec and its majority shareholder, WRB Enterprises to operate effectively and efficiently in Grenada.
“… The very same WRB in recent months applied and successfully won a bid to provide electricity in Jamaica after the passing of a very similar Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Bill and Electricity Service Act that broke the monopoly and gave them the ability to go into other territories.
“We are saying that where our other CARICOM islands … are passing regulations to create a legislation that allows them to enter where they couldn’t, we should create that very same environment that a Regulatory Authority will ensure that their investment to date and our desire to have them as our continued long standing partner is protected by that Regulatory Authority.