TCI Government can ease the burden by providing fuel credits like the Government of Cayman
When the residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands received their light bills on June 30th, they were shocked and expressed their frustration about on social media. The utility company, Fortis TCI issued a press released and stated that due to the war in Ukraine, it drove the price of fuel up and hence there was a 23% increase in the fuel factor compared to the May 31st bill. Many residents, however, were not satisfied with that explanation and said they wanted to know why their consumption was high. Based on this, I decided to do an analysis of my utility bill and offer some suggestions on what we, Fortis and the Government can do to have a lower bill.
An analysis of my bill
My June 30, 2022, bill revealed that I consumed 1,770 kwh of electricity resulting in a bill of $912.44 including $425.69 for the fuel factor. The bill for May 31, 2022, was $570.63 and my consumption was 1,211 kwh of electricity. Therefore, my consumption increased by 559 kwh of electricity. While the rate of .275 per Kwh remains the same, the fuel factor rate increased from .1962 in May to .2405 in June indicating a 23% increase as reflected in the press release from Fortis. I must admit I expected my bill to be higher this month because we were using the AC many nights in the month of June compared to May. Of course, I didn’t expect it to be over $900 but I didn’t know what the fuel factor would be but then again, I should have not been surprised since everything else has increased. My mortgage payment went up by more than $700 and the fuel at the gas station has increased significantly.
Despite these justifications, I was still not happy with my bill, so I decided to review my bill for the same period in 2021 and 2020 respectively. In June 2021, my consumption was 1,506 kwh and my bill was $596.07 of which $181.92 was the fuel factor portion. Interestingly, the fuel factor rate for June 2021 was .1208 which is about half the rate of the fuel factor of .2405 for June 2022. In May 2021, my consumption was 1,333 and the bill was $498.35 of which the fuel factor was $136.70. The fuel factor rate for May 2021 was .1026. If you noticed, my June 2021 bill was just a little higher than May 2022 but the consumption for June 2021 was higher than May 2022 by 295 kwh.
In June 2020, my consumption was 2,190 kwh of electricity and my bill was $796.07 of which $226.67 was the fuel factor. As you can see, my consumption for June 2020 was a lot higher than June 2022 but my bill was lower. The reason my bill was lower is that the electricity rate in June 2020 was .26 and the fuel factor was .1035 whereas in June 2022, the electricity rate was .275 and the fuel factor was .2405. Now my bill for May 2020 was $858.88 and my consumption was 2,280 which was the highest so far. The fuel factor was .1167.
What can we as consumers do to reduce our bill?
We know that the more we consume electricity, the higher our electricity bill will be. Therefore, we must find ways to reduce our consumption. Of course, this will be a challenge this summer where the temperature is extremely hotter than usual and so many of us will be tempted to use the air conditioner. Ironically, some consumers have claimed they have not increased their consumption, but their bill is high. I cannot comprehend this, but I know as a consumer, I am going to sign up for my online account so that I can monitor our consumption daily and act based on the results of the consumption.
Fortis TCI website has several tips on what we can do to conserve energy. Make sure your lights are turned off when you are not using them. Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Use irons that have automatic turn off features. Use flat bottomed pans. If you have a cooking time for your food, turn your stove off before the designated time. Turn off your computers if you are not using it. Fortis also has renewable energy programs known as Core and programs respectively. Alternatively, I believe you can install your own renewable energy and solar programs or even wind resources.
What can Fortis (our utility company) do?
Currently, Fortis is using diesel to generate and distribute electricity to the residents of the Turks and Caicos Islands. As a result, the company relies totally and heavily on fuel. Whatever fuel cost that the company incurs, that cost is recharged to all their consumers in what is known as the fuel factor which is standard practice. For this cost to reduce, Fortis needs to reduce their reliance on diesel and move to more renewable energy resources.
I know customers can log on to monitor their usage daily but perhaps Fortis should implement a system that customers can be notified automatically on a regular basis about their consumption especially if their consumption exceeds its regular usage.
What can the Government do?
The Government of the Cayman Islands recently announced that they will provide a fuel cost credit for fuel factor rates that go above 15cents per kwh for the months of Jul, August and September to residents whose consumption is between 101kwh and 2,000Kwh. If the residents’ consumption is below 101 and greater than 2000, then they do not qualify for the credit. If the rate is above 15 cents, the Government will pay the difference for the residents. I think this is a great initiative and the Turks and Caicos Islands Government should do something similar.
I know several months ago, the Government announced a $15million initiative, however, I don’t think anyone is seeing any impact. The main reason this initiative is not impactful is because the price of the goods has increased significantly higher than the initiative. Therefore, I think the Government should review that initiative and replace it with something else. Perhaps they can remove the Customs Processing Fee for the summer and remove the taxes on the fuel that are imported for the summer months. The residents cannot have a great life if they are spending all their income and savings to accommodate the rising costs of fuel, groceries, electricity, and interest rates.
The Government needs to say something to people and assure them that there is no price gouging and that the fuel factor rates are reviewed and approved by the Energy and Utilities Commission.
Whether or not we want to accept this, the Russia/Ukraine war is having an impact on the supply chain and the price of products such as fuel. I don’t know why people are experiencing an increase in consumption when their activities were the same or less in the prior months. This is something that you as consumers need to check immediately. In fact, go to Fortis and let them review and investigate your consumption. Alternatively, get an electrician to examine your place and check your breakers and meters. Fortis, say they do not estimate consumption and the consumption is based on the actual readings displayed on the meters. In the meanwhile, though, I think the Government holds the key for a reduction in our bills by providing relief for the residents.