The proposed Utilities (Amendment) Act 2023 before the Senate will radically affect the way renewable energy companies will be regulated with little to no input from consumers, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Dr Ronnie Yearwood warned on Thursday.
And he has urged Barbadians to raise their objections, declaring that his party will do what it has to do to pressure the Mia Mottley administration to withdraw the measure.
According to the Barbados Parliament website, notice of the bill was served last Tuesday in the Upper Chamber.
The bill states: “The Minister may, on the recommendation of the Commission or, on his own initiative, exempt the supply of electricity from a renewable energy resource by a renewable energy producer from the application of all or any of the provisions of this Act, where the Minister is satisfied in all circumstances that the exemption is required in the public interest.”
Speaking at the DLP’s end-of-year press conference at party headquarters on Thursday morning, Yearwood, who noted the bill was “oddly” introduced in the Senate, unlike the normal practice where bills are first tabled in the Lower Chamber, claimed it would result in renewable energy power not being regulated by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) but by the minister of energy who would be able to set rates with no room for appeals by the public.
“You have a government that is trying to move an amendment to basically take away your power as a consumer when it comes to utility regulation in this country.
“This amendment will mean that a minister can determine that there is no regulation for an energy provider in Barbados, that they can get around the issues of regulation. So, what just happened with Tricia Watson and those intervenors would not happen,” he said referring to those who challenged the Barbados Light and Power Company (BLPC) application for a hike in electricity rates at the FTC’s rate hearings.
Yearwood also raised concern that the amendment would undermine the FTC which is charged with regulating public utilities and protecting the interest of consumers.
“It is being used to make the Fair Trading Commission useless and redundant and defunct, basically,” he charged.
The DLP leader agreed with Watson’s recent call for the FTC to order BLPC to refund its earnings from the interim rate increase that was granted ahead of the final ruling on new rates.
He also knocked the power company for opting to go to court to contest the FTC’s decision on its rate hike application.
Yearwood said: “Accept the decision of the FTC, give me back the money. Move on. You were found wrong, it’s that simple, that’s democracy.”
Meanwhile, the DLP leader said his party will be keeping a close eye on the movement of the bill to ensure it is not hurriedly passed. He called on the public to also be vigilant.
“So I would urge Barbadians to flood the Parliament’s website and overwhelm it with their comments and their objections to this amendment,” he said.
Yearwood suggested that the development was a consequence of not having an opposition in Parliament, insisting earlier that the DLP is critical to the island’s democracy.
“The reality is the party has to be returned to a place in Parliament and people have to recognise that by not having the opposition in Parliament, these are the kinds of things that are happening,” he said.