Escalating blame game sees power cut to 19 Sark homes

MAINS power was cut from 19 homes in Sark yesterday afternoon as the electricity blame game intensified.

Sark's power station. (28775186)
Sark's power station. (28775186)

A contingency plan, including generators and cabling to provide a supply, is now in place with the Medical & Emergency Committee taking over the provision of power.

La Tour tenement owner Sebastien Moerman does not want Sark Electricity equipment on his land as he moves to generate his own power, arguing that the company is not offering a deal for what he would feed into the grid.

The company wants Chief Pleas to step in and make sure it has legal powers to maintain the grid on private land across Sark.

SEL director Alan Jackson said he had tried to avoid the situation, but that it had become inevitable as a result of a court order.

‘I can’t force someone to have the equipment on their land,’ he said.

‘I’ve tried to negotiate with landowners as Chief Pleas, but if they don’t want it no amount of negotiation is going to change that.’

He said there were now eight houses land-locked by two tenements and a freehold who did not want electrical installations on their land, and although one said they would allow it on a ‘handshake’, he advised it was not acceptable.

In addition, three properties would still remain cut off as a result of being on Mr Moerman’s land, even if another location for the electrical equipment were to be found.

‘If counter-parties do not want to negotiate, then there is nowhere to go,’ he said.

‘Some of this equipment isn’t very pretty, that is why in other jurisdictions there are statutory powers to enable a utility to supply power to residents. If Sark doesn’t want that, that’s fine but that isn’t my fault.

‘You could go through the sea to get to these homes but it’s expensive to do and that will not make electricity cheap on Sark if you’re forcing a utility to company to do that.

‘Saying it is my fault is a nonsense.’

However, Mr Moerman said SEL and Mr Jackson continued to seek to exploit the people of Sark while criticising those ‘standing in their way’, including the Seigneur, Chief Pleas, the douzaine, the electricity commissioner and himself.

‘The threat used is to cut off the electricity supply to certain Sark residents, including vulnerable adults,’ he said.

‘At the same time, Mr Jackson confirms in the media that “he and his partner and fellow company director James Penny were now looking at moving to Alderney or Guernsey”.’

Mr Moerman has invested in ‘green electricity’, but said if he remained connected to the SEL grid it would have forced him to sell all the electricity he produced to SEL for 15p per kWh, and then buy-back from SEL all electricity he consumed, even if he had generated it himself, at 54p per kWh.

Mr Moerman said it was as a result of SEL’s encouragement of residents to invest in green technology and rent their roof to them for solar panels under a buy-back arrangement, that had led him to refuse the use of his land in the belief that the company wanted to make profits at others’ expense.

‘All of this demonstrates that SEL, a privately-owned company, wants to make profits at others’ expense, however unreasonably it chooses to conduct itself,’ added Mr Moerman.

‘The people of Sark and its institutions are well able to stand up for themselves, which has not gone down well with SEL.’

In response, Mr Jackson said Mr Moerman had set a dangerous precedent that landowners could cut power.

‘The fact is if there was an argument between a landowner and their residents, they could turn around and say they don’t want power supplied through their land, in turn reducing the value of others’ property,’ he said.

‘This is the society that Chief Pleas want to live in, nobody seems to care about these residents, their human rights.

‘We will continue to try to identify a physical means to reconnect these residents as soon as possible but I cannot, with all honesty, say when this will occur.’

Representatives of the Policy & Finance and Medical & Emergency committees have invited Mr Jackson to meet them to discuss the matter.

‘It is regrettable that despite the alternative options offered to Mr Jackson, he has chosen to disconnect the electricity supply rather than commence work to install new cabling or to re-site the existing equipment,’ Policy & Finance said.

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