Channel Islanders could be left in the dark after electricity supplier threatens to cut power

Posted at 5:44 AM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 07:44:28-05

Residents on the remote Channel Island of Sark face being left without power after the sole electricity supplier threatened to cut off its supply in the wake of a dispute with the island’s government over pricing.

Sark Electricity Ltd (SEL), which provides power for the island’s 500 residents, warned it will be forced to halt its electricity supply on November 30 as a result of the government’s new pricing system.

The island’s parliament, known as the Chief Pleas, sparked a dispute with SEL earlier this year when the power supplier was ordered to reduce its price per kWh from 66p to 52p by the price controller commissioner Anthony White.

The company, which provides electricity for the island’s 300 homes through a diesel generator, warned that the pricing policy would result in losses of £20,000 ($25,600) per month.

SEL added that it would consequently be obliged to cut off power on November 30, which would result in a “public health emergency” and would force the island’s residents to leave.

“So we no longer have any options. We have shown Chief Pleas an independent auditor’s report that shows that we would lose over £83,000 by 31 December at the current electricity price,” David Gordon-Brown, SEL’s managing director, said in a letter to residents.

“We needed to start on the legal work to overturn this judgment by the beginning of this month so mounting a lawyer-driven appeal against the commissioner’s foolishness is no longer possible.”

Gordon-Brown warned that there would be “no possibility” for SEL to survive if the island’s government continues to implement its current pricing policy, and noted that the company “must” therefore stop selling electricity.

He added that while the general supply of electricity will end before the end of the month, the company will ensure that doctors and essential emergency services receive power for a further week to allow for a transition period while residents leave the island.

In a stark warning to Sark residents, he added: “I hate to say it but people will have no option but to leave. That is the fact of the matter as there will be no electricity.

“Chief Pleas want to put together a contingency plan but I don’t think they are capable of doing that — they are a dysfunctional government. Chief Pleas will just do what they always do, and that is nothing.

“The only hope is to get someone independent in to bang some heads together and if they want to bang mine, that’s fine. I am up for it. It is very sad state of affairs.”

Island politicians have since announced that emergency contingency plans are being drawn to avoid the impending crisis.

“The plans are in the development stage so I can’t give out too much details, but it will involve consolidating around certain centers — making sure there are certain buildings that have power so people can congregate there,” William Morris, a member of the Chief Pleas, told the Guardian.