Guernsey Press

Plans to buy my company should stop – SEL owner

CHIEF PLEAS must drop its plan to buy Sark Electricity Ltd immediately, company owner Alan Witney-Price has said.

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(Picture By Sophie Rabey, 30900130)

This followed a report prepared by the island’s electricity price commissioner, which concluded that it would be cheaper and more viable to build a new power generation and distribution system.

Prior to this, the island’s Policy & Finance Committee had agreed to set up a mediated attempt to negotiate the sale of SEL.

But, said Mr Witney-Price, seven months on, talks have still not started and he said that it seemed as if P&F wanted to undermine the company’s value.

‘The process of creeping expropriation over the last four years is a damning example of the failure of good governance over the Crown Dependency of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

‘The situation was in a crisis a year ago, but it has deteriorated further still and the lack of action has placed an intolerable physical and mental pressure on the engineering team in particular.

He accused Chief Pleas of burying its head in the sand by blaming SEL for inaction on issues from inadequate government policy and required legislative changes, through to constitutional matters, areas over which SEL has no authority or power.

The commitment from P&F to appoint someone to represent it in mediated talks were worthless, he said, as had been assurances from the UK Ministry of Justice that it would ‘maintain a watching brief’ over the process.

‘The reality, despite your repeated public and private assurances, is that P&F has been actively working for years to de-value SEL through a process of attrition and misinformation.’

Mr Witney-Price had personally financed a fuel subsidy and this would end on 30 June after which a price increase, based on the price in May, of 11.3p per unit would be likely.

‘The price increase that is about to strike will have an enormous impact on residents and will create hardship,’ he said.

‘These significant unit price increases are entirely down to P&F’s failure to act on key issues. It is also the responsibility of Government House, the MoJ and the Crown for failing to respond to our repeated calls to intervene and fulfil their duties of oversight.’

Guernsey’s Civil Contingencies Authority could avert the crisis, but Mr Witney-Price said it seemed that the CCA would rather wait until the catastrophe happened, which would leave Guernsey residents to pick up the tab rather than compel Sark to attend to its own business, solve its own crises and cover its own costs.

He said that only SEL was pushing for a conversation to take place yet despite this, P&F had spoken of creating its own independent generation and distribution network.

‘If P&F continue down its chosen path the generation network on Sark will ultimately fail. The team at SEL are doing a fantastic job but there is only so much that can be done.’

Renewables with diesel back-up are ways ahead – report

WIND and solar power, with diesel as back-up, could provide cheaper power to Sark than that presently supplied by Sark Electricity, an independent report has concluded.

The report, energypeople, was commissioned by the island’s electricity price commissioner, and as well as finding that power could be generated for about 43p a unit by renewables backed by diesel, it concluded that there was no value in keeping any of SEL’s current system.

The commissioner, Anthony White, criticised SEL’s failure to invest in new equipment

‘The energypeople report clearly demonstrates that a new system of electricity generation and distribution, as described in the report, would not only ensure a more reliable supply but could also bring cost and environmental benefits to customers and the economy of Sark generally,’ wrote Mr White.

SEL owner Alan Witney-Price criticised the suggestion of a new system and pointed out that Guernsey residents would end up underwriting this spending.

‘As a Guernseyman I find the suggestion that Guernsey residents should underwrite questionable spending for Sark as simply ridiculous,’ he wrote in a letter published yesterday.

He said that SEL had the funds to buy the equipment and was not looking to Chief Pleas to spend the money.

Had the Policy & Finance Committee appointed a representative to meet on its behalf with SEL to discuss the company’s potential sale, these matters would have been ‘answered in the normal course of business and the supply secured’, he said.

‘I believe it to be a ridiculous waste of Guernsey taxpayer funds to underwrite a loan for a second independent generation and distribution network on an island of circa 600 residents.’