VINLEC, like CWSA, was coerced into providing blanket discounts to its customers in the emotional response to COVID-19 and then the Volcano eruption. The customers in the Red Zone received additional relief, deservedly so.
Mr. Manager, I am assuming the company was capable of observing those hits without too much strain. Therefore I am going to ask some of the same questions of you as I did the CWSA Manager:
- What was the total cost of the discounts and billing forgiveness this year?
- Did we use funds designed for growth and infrastructure replacement to cover this loss of revenue?
- Are you going to honor any union-negotiated benefits, like a salary increase this year?
- Did you or are you going pay any bonuses to the employees for the excellent job and services they provided this year?
You see, Mr. Manager, your financial condition concerns me as we prepare for a new budget year. It also worries that the last audited financial statement available online is 2018, where you reported a profit of close to $6 million.
I can only hope that you will recover from these losses in a manner that would not require a dramatic increase in the per unit charge.
Now could we talk about next year’s budget and a few things I’d like to see the Government invest in for the nation’s sake? I would like to see this be the year we fully commit to a plan to eliminate or significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. A few articles ago asked that we set a target of a minimum of 50% of our energy to be derived from alternative fuel by 2035. To achieve this goal, we must start now, and let’s face it, 50% in 13 years is a modest and easily achievable goal. Now some of you will say a VINLEC budget and plans do not belong in the government budget, and maybe you are correct in a purely technical sense. But, who are you kidding? I submit that if the Government retains its ability to direct the use of any available reserves, it most definitely belongs in this discussion.
The Manager and the Board need some clear direction from the Government:
- The budget must authorize the creation of a Special Revenue Fund restricted to cover the cost of alternative energy.
- The budget should include a portion of the gas tax to subsidize the alternative energy program.
- The budget should wave all VAT and 50% of the Customs Duties and CSR taxes on all-electric vehicles.
- The electric vehicle license tax should be 50% of a gas/diesel-powered vehicle.
- The Government should subsidize interest rates on personal loans to homeowners installing solar equipment by 50% of market rates.
- All new development, including government buildings, should be required to install the solar equipment necessary with a capacity of at least 125% of average daily use.
- Homeowners and businesses who install equipment producing at least 125% of their average daily electric use should receive a tax credit of all VAT and Customs Duties paid.
I would like to see some money set aside to develop a comprehensive alternative energy plan in this year’s budget. We cannot continue to rely on 85% of our electricity coming from fossil fuels. Our hydroelectric power plants cannot produce as much electricity as they did in the past for many reasons, including the age of equipment and groundwater flows. Therefore, it is time to recognize the need for a different strategy.
I am concerned about our capacity to deliver reliable electricity needs to meet the demands of the projected growth in the tourism and industrial sectors. By my estimates, we are planning to bring online between 1,500-2,000 new hotel rooms in the next two to three years, and we must be ready to deliver power to these developments without adversely impacting the current customers. It is not too late to require them to add a solar component to these developments.
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