Power company generates increased profits

Increase in prices helped CUC make $20 million in 2013

Rising electricity prices and hundreds of new customers helped the Caribbean Utilities Company increase profits by some $2.7 million last year. 

The power company reported net earnings of $20.4 million in its unaudited results for 2013. 

The increase was largely driven by electricity sales, with more than 300 additional customers compared to 2012. Higher use of air conditioners in what was a marginally hotter year also influenced the company’s financial performance, according to its report. 

A rise in electricity prices, resulting in a slight increase in household bills from June, helped swell CUC coffers further. 

The increase, though small – around half of 1 percent on the average monthly bill – was contentious because it came at a time when unemployment is rife and many families are struggling to make ends meet. 

At the time, the company justified the rate increase saying it would ensure it remains “financially viable” – able to attract sufficient capital to operate a modern electrical network and deliver a reliable service.  

CUC’s report, covering the last quarter of 2013 and the year as a whole, points to a $143 million five-year investment plan, approved by the Electricity Regulatory Authority in December. 

It says the money will be spent on capital investment, unrelated to the generation of new electricity capacity for the national grid. 

Previously, ERA managing director Louis Boucher explained that some of this investment was connected to street lighting, as well as to creating a “smart grid” system of sensors, computers and wireless interfaces that distribute electricity more efficiently and reliably.  

New electricity generation is handled through an open bidding process, with rival companies allowed to compete for the contract. 

The CUC report states that in October it issued a certificate of need for 36 new megawatts of generating capacity, citing the “retirement” of old generators and suggesting at least half of that new capacity would need to be available by April 2016. 

It is hoped that newer technology, combined with increased use of renewable energy sources, will help drive down prices to consumers in the long term. 

Two renewable energy developers were selected in late 2013 to supply a total of 13 megawatts of electricity to the national grid by 2015. 

New Generation Power has proposed to provide 3 MW of wind generation and 5 MW of solar generation, and International Electric Power LLC has proposed to provide an additional 5 MW of solar power, the report states. 

Richard Hew, president and chief executive officer of the company, writes: “Large scale renewables, combined with the replacement of older diesel generators by more efficient and firm generation, will bring price, reliability and environmental benefits to consumers.” 

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