Still in the dark

Although energy sector representatives have met 12 times this year to discuss the country’s power problems, there have been no concrete resolutions and the energy system continues in decay. Of those 12 meetings held this year President Leonel Fernandez was present at six, with no results to show at all. El Caribe newspaper reports that the government had made renegotiating the energy contracts, constructing carbon plants, reduction of theft and corruption, and lowering the subsidies on the energy sector a priority for 2006, but none of these issues were ever dealt with seriously. Even State Run Electricity Companies head Radhames Segura has admitted that the efforts by the government to solve the energy problem have been in vain, an energy problem that makes energy 25% more expensive for the consumer. The blame game continues as usual. The energy generators blame the energy distributors for the high cost of energy. Because of the faults within the system, the Energy Superintendent has had to pay users more than RD$133 million this year alone in credit for services not rendered by the energy producers, and things don’t seem to be getting better. Because of the lack of progress by the distributors in reducing losses within the system, the subsidy for the energy sector this year was RD$600 million. The government has also failed to abide by IMF regulations with regards to the energy sector, which agreed to increase the Index of Cash Recovery at a minimum of 0.64, but this is currently at 0.57. Also the government agreed to reduce technical and non-technical losses to 38%, but which are currently at 44%.

Instead, Congress is studying a new bill aimed at increasing penalties for consumers who steal power, and removing sections of the Electricity Law that penalize distributors and that the Superintendent of Electricity has refrained from applying. The bill would continue to put the onus on paying consumers who are already penalized by having to pay some of the highest power rates in the world for an extremely deficient service. Several studies indicate that politics continues to dominate the energy system, preventing decisions aimed at its true recovery from being taken.