Electricity use peaks

CUC passes pre-Ivan load

Caribbean Utilities Company hit a peak load of 85,648 kilowatts on 30 August, surpassing its peak load before Hurricane Ivan.

On 2 September 2004, nine days before Hurricane Ivan hit, CUC had a record peak load of 85,030 kilowatts.

CUC’s Chairman and CEO Richard Hew said it is possible that CUC could hit another new record this week.

‘I’m looking at the weather today and it’s a possibility it might happen this week again,’ he said Monday. ‘If we have two or three straight days of hot weather, we’ll have high loads again.’

Mr. Hew said if a new peak were to occur, it would likely happen during the work week because the weekend loads are actually lower.

Caren Thompson, manager, Corporate Communications, said CUC is also now back to its pre-Ivan generating capacity.

‘We’ve had no rolling black-outs this year like we had last year,’ she said.

Ms Thompson said CUC had projected a peak load of 88,000 KW this year, significantly less than the current loads.

‘We may or may not see that happen,’ she said, noting there are several factors beside the weather that determine loads.

‘People may be feeling the pinch of the cost of fuel and starting to cut back,’ she said. ‘We would hope people are heeding advice to conserve.’

CUC is allowed under the terms of its licence agreement to pass on higher fuel costs to consumers. As the price of oil has risen since last fall, so has CUC’s fuel factor.

In July, CUC’s fuel factor to customers was 11.4 cents per kilowatt hour, the highest in its history, Ms Thompson said.

The fuel factor dropped to 10.6 cents in August and will be 10.2 cents in September. However in October, it will rise again to 10.8 cents per KWH, even though oil prices have been steadily dropping over the past two weeks.

Mr. Hew explained that there is a three-month lag between world oil prices and the fuel factor charged by CUC. It normally takes the local oil importers one month to adjust their prices, and then, under the terms of its licence agreement, CUC must wait two months before changing the fuel factor.

Therefore, the decreases in world oil prices occurring this month will not be reflected in electricity bills here until December, Mr. Hew said.

CUC does not make a profit on the higher fuel costs and says it can do nothing about them.

‘CUC has no control over these rising fuel prices, which all utility companies and consumers are facing worldwide,’ Mr. Hew said recently in response to questions about why electricity costs here are so high.

‘In the Caribbean, the effects of the oil price increases on electricity costs are more pronounced as most islands do not enjoy the benefits of diversity in energy sources such as coal, hydro or nuclear energy.’

Mr. Hew pointed out that CUC has not increased its base rates since 2002, other than the negotiated temporary surcharge that was applied in August 2005 to offset Hurricane Ivan damage.

‘We are making every effort to improve our efficiencies and keep our costs down to the consumer while maintaining a reliable service,’ he said.

With regard to findings presented at last week’s annual Cayman Islands tourism conference, where it was shown that hotels here have to pay much higher electricity costs than other resort locations like Puerto Rico, Jamaica, St. Thomas and Hawaii, Ms Thompson pointed out that those other jurisdictions enjoy economy of scale because they have much larger populations than Cayman.

Ms Thompson suggested that islands such as Bermuda, Antigua, Anguilla and St. Vincent would make better jurisdiction to compare electricity rates with Grand Cayman.

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