Sark seeks emergency laws to keep lights on

SARK’S government will use emergency powers to enter the island’s privately owned power station and turn the supply back on if the electricity company ever turns it off.

Sark's power station. (29685704)
Sark's power station. (29685704)

Following comments from Sark Electricity Ltd, which suggested the company was on the brink of stopping trading and pulling the plug, the island’s Policy & Finance Committee contacted Guernsey's Civil Contingencies Authority to ensure this emergency plan was in place.

P&F chairman John Guille said the CCA would need to call an emergency meeting to approveSark entering the power plant.

Until that was obtained, separate generation already available on-island would keep power on for islanders.

But before matters get to this point, Sark's government is looking to negotiate the purchase of SEL.

An emergency meeting of Chief Pleas on Monday accepted this as one of two proposals from P&F, the other being to have a new law drafted to enable the compulsory purchase of SEL if necessary.

That meeting followed comments by SEL’s managing director Alan Witney-Price.

He reportedly contacted Government House on Tuesday 15 June and said the company’s finances would last until the following Saturday, at which point power would be turned off in Sark.

That did not happen, but it galvanised P&F to make contact with the Civil Contingencies Authority, Guernsey Electricity and the States' external affairs department. It also published an emergency policy letter calling for negotiations to start with the company with a view to it being bought by Chief Pleas and for a compulsory purchase law to be drafted – legislation which the island has never had before.

‘The option for compulsory purchase could then be exercised in a defined time period set by Chief Pleas if negotiations are not successful,’ said P&F’s report.

While enforced purchase could be an option, the main aim would be to reach a negotiated purchase agreement.

‘A letter is going out to Sark Electricity today to begin the process of negotiation,’ said Conseiller Guille yesterday.

Jobs should be secure. ‘We would look to retain the staff. They were there a long time before Mr Witney-Price.’

SEL was valued in 2020 at between £1.2m. and £1.3m. but Conseiller Guille said a fresh valuation would be needed before any purchase could go ahead.

The CCA confirmed it had been in contact with Sark: ‘The Civil Contingencies Authority continues to be in close communication with Chief Pleas, which has robust contingency plans in place should there be an interruption in the electricity supply for any reason,’ said a spokesman.

. Mr Witney-Price could not be contacted for comment.

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