Parliamentary Committee asks for ceiling on electricity costs

The Parliamentary Finance and Expenditure Committee has called on the Office of the Regulator to impose a ceiling on electricity costs and to monitor the cost of internet.

The appeal by the Committee was highlighted in the Office of the Regulator's Annual Report for the 2018 Financial Year.

“The Committee raised concerns regarding the expensive costs of electricity and internet, recommending the Regulator to monitor these rates, especially electricity rate which is costly for the low-income families.”

The Office of the Regulator in response said that the review of internet cost in Samoa has commenced, taking into account the completion in the installation of the Tui Samoa submarine cable.

Since March 1, 2019 domestic cash power consumers pay $0.67 per unit for 1-100 kilowatts and $0.81 per unit for 101 kilowatts and over. The $0.81 new electricity rate also applies to non-domestic consumers for cash power and domestic consumers for induction meter users, whereas non-domestic consumers pay $0.86 sene for all units.

In an earlier interview with the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) General Manager, Tologata Tile Tuimalealiifano, he said the increase applies to all domestic and non-domestic users for cash power and induction meter users.

Tologata said it is the consumers who will feel the burden of the increase, as the E.P.C. is tries to recover the operational cost from November last year to this month, when the last increase in fuel price occured.

“This is always the complaint from consumers because the price of electricity is not going in line with the price of fuel because of the time lapse.

“The tariff at the moment is not in line with the current fuel price. We used the fuel price of two months ago, and this is why the consumer cannot tell. Sometimes the fuel price drops this month, but we are increasing the tariff because of the fuel price two months ago to make up for the shortfall, because fuel price is a pass-on cost and it’s not a profit to E.P.C.,” he said. 

The Committee concluded with recommendations for the consideration of the Office of the Regulator.

“To develop a price ceiling policy for electricity, noting that there has been a consistent increase in electricity rates yet renewable energy device which sole purpose was to reduce electricity costs in the first instance, continue to be installed,” the Committee stated. 

Furthermore, the Committee recommended that the Office of the Regulator immediately review and assess internet rates, especially with the Tui Samoa submarine cable already in place and the large amount of public money being spent on the Government project.

When the Tui Samoa Cable landed in Savaii in 2017, Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti said during the launching that the Government’s investment of US$25 million ($62.5 million tala) in the Tui- Samoa cable to provide the most affordable internet pricing in the region.

During the hearing of the Office of the Regulator’s 2018 Annual Report, the Finance Committee noted a unique layout of financial statements for the Regulator’s Office.

A total of $4.73 million was collected from the telecom license fees and communication permits in the 2018 Financial Year.

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