Public cry about rise in cost of electricity
"I went from paying $4.60 per day to paying $10.69. What I did do differently DOMLEC? Not a damn thing," wrote Facebook user Clari Lulu.
"Boy DOMLEC! This is just amazing," wrote Trevor Shillingford. "In a house that is empty for the greater part of the day, $12.43 usage a day. This is just bloody unbelievable! How I wish I could (use) some other adjectives...but really this is damn nonsense."
"Oh DOMLEC, DOMLEC, DOMLEC, Oh. Lord guide the less fortunate in this land and make a way for your people. Just watching the price of my units go up and I have not started paying fuel surcharge or VAT for the month. We have to make sacrifices," Troy Shillingford lamented.
Over the past week, comments like these on the skyrocketing cost of electricity could be heard from many Dominica Electricity Services Limited (DOMLEC) consumers.
Nathalie Alexander provided a copy of her electricity bill to the SUN which shows that within the past three months, her monthly charges have gone from $116 to $175 to now an unbelievable $235.
As to what she's done differently, the single mother of two who says she now shuts off all of her appliances before leaving for work in the morning can't pinpoint where this excess fee could be coming from.
In the company's defense, Acting General Manager of DOMLEC Clyde Edwards, says that the rate which the company charges to consumers has not changed in the past 16 years, and hints at the spike in fuel due to the ongoing war as a possible cause.
"Our billing structure has two elements to it, we have a tariff which is set by the IRC and then we have the fuel cost which is passed on to the customer.
"The fuel prices have been rising. What has happened is that the formula that we use for the calculation of the fuel surcharge has shown an upward movement in the fuel surcharges as the cost of fuel increases".
He continued, "The rate that has been applied to the bill has not changed since 2006 or 2007 because that is regulated and we cannot change that on our own".
Edward said the price may be high when the rate is set, but when the price goes down, the customer is at a disadvantage as the customers would be charged a fixed rate when the prices of fuel have gone down.
"Now the company is required to make a return on its investment and continue to stay in business so what we have seen in the past few months which started early last year -because in January 2021 fuel surcharge was very low-but we have seen an increase and that has to do with the fuel increase over that period," he said.
During an interview with The SUN last month, Justinn Kase, Executive Director of the Independent Regulatory Commission (IRC), warned consumers to expect a rise in their electricity bills within the upcoming months.
Similar to Edward, he indicated that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has brought with it crippling increases in the price of fuel.
"The electricity rates consist of a fixed part and a variable part. The variable part is what we call the fuel surcharge. It is really out of our control as it is controlled by international market forces such as war or diminishing of supply which could result in a higher fuel surcharge," he explained to the Sun.
"It is difficult to mitigate that because we have no control over it. I know the US is trying to get Venezuela, Iran, and a few other countries to increase their output. If they are successful, then that will help. But if not, we will see a significant rise in fuel surcharge, which will definitely impact your bill. So if your bill was probably around 150 then maybe you'll pay $200," he added.
While the government has promised a geothermal power plant by the end of 2023, on April 1, 2022, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced that his government had signed an agreement with Emera Inc. to purchase its 52% stake in DOMLEC- a major consumer of fossil fuel.
Skerrit while announcing the acquisition of the company did state that his Government does not want to create the illusion to customers that assuming majority ownership of DOMLEC, will immediately translate to lower electricity bills.