Published On: Wed, May 24th, 2023

MP Gumbs expresses concerns about GEBE

PHILIPSBURG – A rise in temperature of just one degree has an impact on the consumption of electricity,” MP Melissa Gumbs (Party for Progress, PfP) pointed out in a letter to Minister of General Affairs Silveria Jacobs that contains questions about electricity provider GEBE.

Gumbs states that increased electricity consumption puts additional stress on the grid. “It must be made clear if GEBE’s financial and operational status can sustain the current and projected high temperatures for 2023, in particular the upcoming season.”

The MP also asked Minister Jacobs for an update about GEBE’s readiness for the new hurricane season and whether the projected high temperatures will impact the stability of the company’s electricity distribution.

Pointing to the study that reveals how a 1 percent rise in temperature could impact electricity consumption, Gumbs stated: “With or without hurricane, there are other climate change realities at play that may affect GEBE’s operations.”

The letter of the PfP-leader begins with a reference to the ransomware attack of a year ago that crippled the company’s ability to invoice customers. She noted that during the follow-up there is near-silence from both GEBE and the government. “But to date, there are still serious concerns regarding billing and collections.”

“People have been asked to faithfully pay their bill without actually knowing the bill. Many have done so since March 2022 but with no receipt to show for it. Some are receiving one bill, but not the other.”

The MP asks the minister for a comprehensive update about GEBE’s customer billing database and about steps to reconcile customer payments with their billing information. Gumbs wrote that she sporadically received a bill for water and that she used her last electricity bill of March 2022 for guidance to pay extra. “This is not ideal for anyone to continue, particularly when they did not always receive a receipt for payment.”

During the recently held Caribbean Climate and Energy Conference in Aruba St. Maarten and the other Caribbean countries signed a memorandum of understanding with the Netherlands. “This memorandum was heralded as a means to further collaboration on addressing climate change for the Caribbean countries as well as for the Netherlands,” MP Gumbs wrote, adding that the conference was “a welcome step forward in the relationship with Climate Minister Rob Jetten.”

Gumbs has asked for a copy of the memorandum and whether a representative of GEBE attended the conference. “It is critical to understand whether there is a fund for the execution of projects developed under the memorandum and whether or not GEBE is expected to foot a part or all of the bill.”

MP Gumbs also expressed concerns about GEBE’s ability to keep its electricity production in line with developments. As an example, she mentioned the Westvue development at the location of the former Summit Hotel. “It is easy to pour concrete but is it also easy to power the units within those structures? What can GEBE accommodate? What is their limit? How do the concerns about climate change shape our thinking about these types of developments?”

MP Gumbs wondered, as she had asked Vromi-minister Doran previously during a parliament meeting, whether “we will hit the pause button on large-scale developments while we figure out how we want to sustainably develop for the future.”

The MP figures that the government has no intention to hit that pause button because the permits for developments are processed faster than those for personal homes.