The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) is stoutly defending the time it takes for a decision on an application for an energy-saving mechanism from the Barbados Light & Power Company (BL&P).
Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Marsha Atherley-Ikechi said on Monday that it is unfortunate the impression is being given that the commission was “sitting” on the application. She explained that with a number of matters before the commission, these will have to be prioritised.
The BL&P’s application for a rate increase, she told Barbados TODAY, will now take precedence over everything else being considered by the commission.
During a press briefing on Friday, Director of Customer Solutions with the power company Kim Griffith-Tang How said the BL&P could no longer hold out on requesting a rate increase because it has not been able to secure a ruling from the FTC to its Clean Energy Transition Rider (CETR) application submitted since last year.
Griffith-Tang How indicated that several other options instead of a price hike were considered over the years, but those measures were either not approved or are still before the regulator for review.
Additionally, she revealed that in response to the (CETR) application submitted in June 2020, the Ministry of Energy had intervened and suggested a rate increase application should be submitted.
The company’s CETR application was aimed at recovering millions of dollars in investment associated with its five-year Clean Energy Transition Programme (CETP) that was started at the end of 2019.
To further outline the rationale behind the current rate increase application, Griffith-Tang How told reporters: “To date, we have not received a decision back from the FTC on that mechanism.”
However, the commission’s acting CEO contended that arriving at a decision could not be rushed.
“There is a process that is undertaken. The commission initiated that process. We asked for interveners, that’s part of the public transparency. The Ministry of Energy intervened and they have made certain requests. As such, we have to look at that before we can continue with the substantive application. So that is where we are at,” Atherley-Ikechi told Barbados TODAY.
“It is not that the commission put it aside and didn’t do anything. We had an intervention querying whether the document should be reviewed at this particular time and we are looking at that because it is essentially a ‘stay request’ that they are asking for,” she disclosed.
Explaining that it’s the Ministry of Energy that has asked for the “stay”, the acting CEO said the utilities regulator now has to examine the merits of the motion for a review and “stay” of the BL&P’s CETP proposal before the substantive application is addressed.
“Just as in a law court when a particular pronouncement is made and then another party comes and asks for that not to be implemented, we would have to look at the merits of this second request, whether it should or should not be implemented before we finalise anything,” she said.
Asked to say how long the process was likely to take, the FTC executive replied: “I cannot give you a definitive answer on that. It has to do with how quickly persons respond to the various interrogatories and then there is a back-and-forth between the parties. Any information given in response to an interrogatory, which is essentially questions being posed whether by the intervener, the commission or the utility itself.”
Atherley-Ikechi told Barbados TODAY that right now, the FTC is at the stage where it is considering the motion of the Ministry of Energy.
While she could not at this stage say how many interveners are involved in the process, she identified the Barbados Renewable Energy Association as one of them.
The BL&P had also complained that it had tried to put in a fuel hedging programme on three different occasions that could result in a “stabilization” of prices to customers but the company had not received a response from the regulator.
But the commission’s acting CEO said a decision on that is expected within the next two weeks.
Atherley-Ikechi also responded to yet another complaint from the Light & Power that it had applied since last year to the FTC for a ruling on a planned Customer Energy Savings Programme, but with no decision to date.
The regulator’s top executive officer explained that while that programme was receiving attention, it has to address all matters before it according to priority.
“With the commission being hamstrung in terms of human resources we have to prioritise what we do. That particular one, the Customer Energy Savings Finance Programme, is a voluntary programme and is being proposed on a pilot basis. Therefore we have to prioritise because they have a number of things before us. We have to prioritise what is most urgent, what is in the best interest of both parties,” she stated.