Nature is not to be blamed: Council tells FEA

04/11/2008 12:06

The Consumer Council of Fiji maintains that nature is not to be blamed for the so-called looming energy crisis as asserted by the Fiji Electricity Authority’s (FEA) CEO Mr Hasmukh Patel. Mr Patel is creating a helpless situation in the country by blaming poor rainfall figures at the Monasavu Dam, claims that the Fiji Meteorology Department has refuted. Domestic consumers are constantly being warned by FEA of possible power shedding measures while businesses are to resort to their own generators in the bid to control escalating costs of the Authority. 

The Council believes that FEA may be having a hidden agenda and is blaming nature to achieve its agenda.  Now that the global oil prices have dropped significantly and may likely reduce further, consumers are expecting the complete removal of the FEA fuel surcharge. The interim government earlier had also averted a decision by the Commerce Commission to fully implement the new tariff rates for 2007. According to the 2007 FEA Annual Report, the Authority made $15.1 million in the year from fuel surcharge alone and therefore contributing to the financial profit for FEA for the year at $14.7 million before tax. This is despite the fact that 64.8 percent of energy was generated through hydro in 2007 with 35.2 percent generation from diesel. Why then were consumers asked to pay fuel surcharge given the hydro to diesel generation ratio for 2007?

Furthermore, 2004 was the worst year for rainfall figures in the country at 3425mm because of the drought experience. Even then, FEA was able to produce 57 percent of energy from hydro in a year of poor rainfall. Surely, Mr Patel cannot say that 2008 is a worse off rainfall year when compared to the drought experience year of 2004.

Fiji consumers cannot be fooled with the same old trick by FEA to blame nature for its poor planning and inability to meet the high demand with sufficient energy supply. FEA seems to be holding the country at ransom for probably wanting to seek the full implementation of the Commerce Commission approved tariff rates for 2007, maintaining the fuel surcharge and to have the full duty concession on all thermal generating fuels (ie IDO and HFO) restored.

Consumers in Fiji call on the government to seriously consider the removal of self-regulation of FEA. The removal of FEA’s regulatory powers is the only solution to making FEA accountable to having proper plans in place and clear predictions of its operations. Corporatisation has clearly failed as a solution to make FEA operations efficient but has instead resulted in the government becoming reliant on FEA and dancing to FEA’s tune while consumers and the economy as a whole suffers. The government needs to listen to the plight of consumers and traders by refusing to be dictated to by FEA and taking the critcal step to remove the regulatory function from FEA so that it can hold FEA accountable with stringent monitoring in place.