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Former House Speaker Dwayne Taylor Weighs In On FORTIS TCI Rate Increase Request To Government


Former Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon. Dwayne Taylor

Dear Mr. Editor,

 

 Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to address a rather daunting, difficult and challenging issue that all residents and people of the TCI are grappling with.


 In a recent press release by the Department of Energy and Utilities which falls under the responsibility of the Minister of Public Safety and Utilities, regarding an application by Fortis TCI for a 6% increased rate in electricity cost, the release stated that such application was made February 14, 2024 and the review process timeline  proposes an issue for proper consultation because the Government has until March 30, 2024, to make representation before its possible implementation for electricity cost increase by April 1, 2024.

 Mr. Editor, let me be quite forthright and frank with the Hon. Minister with responsibility, to me and every other TCIslander who has some understanding of the tariff rate process knows that it gives the government some leverage as to what can be done in the interim whilst considering an application from Fortis TCI for increase rates.


The Hon. Minister is throwing his hands up in the air and telling everyone to run for cover, lay down, play dead and embrace what is to come. I would hate to think that you’re playing games and using reverse psychology when you have at your disposal under the Electricity Ordinance certain protocols to fight for the people of the Turks and Caicos.


 Hon. Minister the press release came from a department which is strictly under your purview, so please stop alienating yourself from the process. I suggest that you man-up because it is a big boy’s table you’re sitting around. Someone seems to be circumventing the process.


 According to the Electrical Ordinance, the government has almost three (3) months to set its ducks in a row. If this application was made on Feb 14, 2024, the government has six (6) weeks to deny and after such time, the public supplier (Fortis TCI) has within three (3) weeks to request an independent inquiry.

 

Mr. Editor, Fortis TCI making an application doesn’t mean that their request is out right granted, so the 21 days that the Minister’s department is alluding to has due process.  Is the Minister with such responsibility telling the country that his government is not competent enough to analyze the application and make a decision within the time frame?


 In viewing the application, once denied (myself and other TCIslanders are hoping and praying they deny it) the government has to appoint  their Commission to conduct an inquiry on the request of the public supplier (Fortis TCI) once it is denied. Fortis TCI has to now justify such request made by them for variation in their tariff to increase cost.


The Government will appoint their Commissioner, who in turn appoints up to two (2) additional assessors where there will be a hearing to highlight the details of Fortis TCI application. I am baffled by the level of lackluster and nonchalant approach by this government to not be proactive in addressing this matter, especially understanding the high cost of living TCIslanders face every day of their lives.


Mr. Editor, it speaks volume as to where their priorities are. This PNP Government and their ministers’ salaries are well padded so they care less and display no degree of empathy for the struggling families who have to decide whether or not to pay Fortis TCI or put food on their tables to feed their families.

 

Mr. Editor, such inquiry by an independent qualified Commission viewing the application, TCIG is left with the opportunity to make strong recommendations and representation to Fortis TCI as to why there should not be an increase.  Sec.33. 5 of the Electricity Ordinance: ‘Every public supplier to whom the relevant regulations apply and any other interested person may attend the inquiry and may make an oral or written representations to the person holding the inquiry’.


 The Hon. Minister is giving the perception that this meeting is a closed door one, or he should have indicated a time or venue otherwise, so members of the public can go and hear such an application and hear what Fortis TCI is up to. In my opinion, every resident who is a consumer is a stakeholder and should be given the opportunity to be heard and listened to the proceedings because there is a common interest.


The Hon. Premier and his lackluster government should stand firm and stand up for the people who they vowed during the election campaign to represent and look after their wellbeing.

 

The Minister seems to be trying to avoid what he and his government have already done and that is to allow Fortis TCI to run wild. The release alluded to the increase in 2020 which took place under the PDM government. When one looks at the matter back then, Fortis TCI application came at a time when they made a case because of their lost during the hurricanes Irma/Maria, even though we all know that what was quoted publicly according to their lost, in my opinion the alleged justifiable falsification of lost,  I am sure they had and have Insurance and after their deductible  between 2% and 10%, their claim check underwrite most, if not all of their loss.

 

Yes, Hon. Minister, from your department release, the application was made in 2018 by Fortis TCI and never came into affect until 2020. That’s because the PDM government fought it. Mr. Minister, you and your government need to fight for the plight of your people who you campaigned to protect and represent. Let me give you and your sleeping government some kind advice, in the process of trying to throw some unwarranted blame around, to hide you and your government’s failures, try to come up with alternative measures/plans to stop allowing Fortis TCI to lead both industries on energy.


Let me be clear on this. When I say leading, Fortis TCI is making sure they are in the driver’s seat in both sectors of energy providers, so they can control the outcome where their bottom-line is never compromised.

 

Hon. Minister you and your nonchalant government is talking about looking at consultations on a policy to increase regulatory oversight of utilities after three (3) years in the driver’s seat, is disgraceful and retarded…that’s the definition of your government.


You and your government should have had innovative ideas where you and your government can lead on renewable energy. Also, you and your government should make stronger representation to challenge Fortis TCI. It’s about time you and your government stop taking the high road and stand up for the people.

 

Mr. Editor, Electricity bills are made up of two (2) parts. The base rate and the fuel factor, (or power cost adjustment). The base rate is a regulated cost outlined in the Electrical Ordinance Section. 32. This covers Fortis TCI general costing (Operational). We understand that Fortis TCI fuel factor cost will fluctuate due to supply and demand and global shocks.


 In 2018 when Fortis TCI made an application for rate variations, I thought, like many others, that it was a  bit over-pressing on the backs of our people, and little or no consideration was given by Fortis TCI  knowing the uphill battle the country was facing after (2) Cat 5 hurricanes and their assets were fully insured.  Coming back to the base cost, I would honestly like to see the Fortis TCI justifiable model claim for a variation in rates at this time when we have not had a hurricane in the past six (6) years (thank God), and no major infrastructural damages that we are aware of.

 

Mr. Editor, remember now, this is not just a fuel factor issue which is likely to fluctuate, but an application for rate increase on top of the fuel factor which is going to have a significant and domino effect and impact on our economy. The cost of doing business as a local entrepreneur/businessman is high enough as it is. This means, it will only go higher on the delivery of goods and services. Higher light bills, higher food cost, higher gas bills on the backs of our already struggling families, and the list goes on and on.

 

Mr. Editor, any cost that the merchants encounter, will be passed onto us, the consumers. Fortis TCI and its shareholders are only about their bottom-line, and it doesn’t matter how they get it, but we must and should have a government that cares enough to fight for and represent us as a people.


Fortis TCI will never hire anyone that will look after the interests of the consumer, that would be counterproductive on their part and quite understandable.


The question remains Mr. Editor, who will look out for the hurting and suffering people of our beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands?  Your 10% and 15% increase and allowances taken away from you by this same PNP Government and the PNP Government and their Ministers increase and Fortis TCI Increase.  Who is in a better position? Don’t think for a moment that the government just found out or was clueless about Fortis TCI increase.


May God Bless you and may God continue to bless our beautiful by nature Turks & Caicos Islands.

 

Hon. Dwayne Taylor

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