SEL managing director Alan Witney-Price said that the issue is the company is not making money and he has warned the government and the island’s electricity price commissioner of the situation for more than a year. He has accused the island’s electricity price commissioner and Chief Pleas of trying to scare islanders into ‘believing half-truths and misdirection in an effort to cover up their own failings’.
The situation started with the fixing of electricity prices at 53p a unit, a decision made by the commissioner in December 2019.
There was also an issue with a number of Sark properties deciding to go off-grid, including 19 homes at La Tour.
‘When less units are being sold, the costs need to be covered,’ said Mr Witney-Price.
Electricity price commissioner Anthony White said that were it not for SEL spending money on legal advice, it would have been profitable last year. The legal advice was necessary due to a case over the situation at La Tour. SEL won that case, but it is now being appealed and Mr Witney-Price said this would lead to more legal costs.
Mr White said that SEL’s actions were ‘ill-judged’ and had led to the situation, but he was open to further discussions with the company. He had kept Chief Pleas up to date on developments, and said he understood plans were in place should SEL stop trading. Mr Witney-Price said the price commissioner’s claims were ‘a nonsense’ and he had constantly warned Chief Pleas of the problems.
‘I’m being transparent and telling them what’s going on. I’ve been telling them since May last year that the company will run out of money if it doesn’t recover its costs.’
Yesterday he posted information on the company’s Facebook page, including a letter he wrote to Chief Pleas some two weeks ago: ‘As a utility SEL must make investment decisions that impact Sark for decades to come, getting these decisions right first time around is a key component to managing costs that will enable me to drive down the unit price on Sark,’ he wrote.
‘Regrettably, Chief Pleas has continued with its uncooperative and combative stance towards Sark’s electricity supplier. This is costing those that you represent dearly and risks Sark’s future viability.’
He said what is needed is for the three parties to get the matter resolved: ‘The OPC, Chief Pleas and SEL must work together as equal partners if we are to solve the problems that we face. Nothing before us is insurmountable if we work collectively and recognise the needs of the other parties.’
A statement from Sark’s Policy & Finance Committee said it was aware of the concerns and had ‘robust contingency plans’ in place should there be an interruption in the electricity supply. It has also been in touch with the Civil Contingencies Authority to brief it on the situation should there be a power interruption that would lead to an emergency.