By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER State Environment Minister Phenton Neymour yesterday accused the government of working on behalf of foreign interests after passing “deceptive” energy reform bills in the House of Assembly nearly two weeks ago.
Mr Neymour said the Electricity Bill, Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (Amendment) Bill and the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill are more in favour of US based PowerSecure and will ensure that consumers face increased electricity costs.
He explained that under the previous Free National Movement administration, electricity bills were comprised of two elements, a base rate at 10 cents per kilowatt-hour and the fuel charge.
However, he told The Tribune that the Christie administration, through the legislation, is attempting to have electric bills made up of four components including a base rate, the fuel charge, value added tax and the new bond fee.
“These pieces of legislation are riddled with flaws and inconsistencies,” Mr Neymour said. “If one looks at the Electricity Bill one would see that it consistently revolved around a five-year time period and revolved around Bahamas Power and Light having a five-year management agreement.
“You do not construct bills in this manner. This bill is being constructed purely for PowerSecure and not in the interest of the Bahamian people.
“It is also being used to deceive the Bahamian people until election but at the end of the day very little will be achieved.”
Mr Neymour said he also sees the bills as the government’s way of “slyly” attempting to have a BEC rate increase implemented.
“I believe that this is intellectually dishonest and I believe that the government should have consulted with the Bahamian people on many elements in these bills.
“The primary reason is that when it comes to energy, apart from the average person’s mortgage or rent, energy is their highest expense and so this is a critical issue to the development of our economy.
“When one looks at the bill itself one will see that the government is attempting to implement a bond fee on to Bahamians like bills.
“The Deputy Prime Minister (Philip “Brave” Davis) has stated that this is an existing fee which is incorrect. This is actually an existing expense that is covered within the base rate of your bill. What the government is attempting to do is take this expense out of the base rate and create another fee so at the end of the day that will be a total rate increase. This in and of itself demonstrates the PLP government is attempting to hoodwink the Bahamian people by rushing this bill through Parliament and to have URCA do its dirty work.”
Last month Mr Davis tabled the three bills in the House of Assembly which he said were expected to pave the way for the Christie administration’s plan to reform the electricity sector, ultimately reducing the cost of electricity to consumers.
The passage of these bills also facilitated further restructuring of BEC, which will be managed by PowerSecure International.
Mr Davis said the Electricity Bill, in part, facilitates the reform of the electricity sector. It also provides for the separation of regulatory and operations functions by the restructuring of BEC. Once the Electricity Bill is enacted, BEC’s name will change to Bahamas Power and Light.