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Published On: Tue, May 5th, 2020

Could GEBE do more for its clients?

GEBE Building Philipsburg - 20200405 JH

~ BES-islands get subsidy to waive fixed tariffs ~

PHILIPSBURG – Saba Electric, the distributor of electricity in Saba, Statia and Bonaire has waived the fixed tariff for all customers until the end of the year. The Dutch government has granted the three islands a subsidy to make this possible.

In St. Maarten, utilities company GEBE has not gone that way: it has instead lowered the fuel clause from $0.23 to $0.18 per kilowatt. The country’s National Energy Policy (April 2014) put the average electricity consumption at 1,500 kilowatts per month. Based on this number, the lower fuel clause will save households, on average, 75 guilders per month.

But GEBE clients also pay a so-called fixed tariff – the set price for being connected to the grid. For electricity, that tariff is 29.25 guilders and for water 15 guilders – an expense of 44.25 guilders per month ($24.70) whether you use water and electricity or not.

Could GEBE offer its customers more relief in these challenging times? The stimulus plan of Finance Minister Ardwell Irion describes the impact of the corona-crisis on GEBE as “minimal.” For this reason, GEBE is not included in the ministry’s calculations of the financial assistance it needs from the Netherlands.

According to the stimulus plan, GEBE had 46.5 million guilders ($26 million) in cash reserves per March 19, 2020. “The company is able to meet its monthly obligations and no further financial support is proposed for GEBE,” the plan states.

Even better: the government expects to collect 6.5 million guilders ($3.6 million) in concession fees from GEBE this year, 300,000 guilders more than in 2019.

Could GEBE do more for its struggling clients? Some observers say they should: “At the very least, GEBE should give the schools and other educational facilities a break instead of charging them full commercial rates. Schools can use those savings to invest in education,” one observer on WIVoice states.

Another observer wonders about how healthy GEBE’s bottom line is: “Just the other day, they were in line for World Bank funding.”

While a zero tariff for all users is obviously out of the question – it would bankrupt the utility company – the question remains why the government has not included support for GEBE in its stimulus-plan. People who have lost their jobs and their income can use all the support they can get, and waiving the fixed tariff on their energy bills would put at least some food on the table.

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Related article:
The Netherlands subsidizes electricity and drinking water on the BES islands



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