MP Lacroes Calls for Review of 2014 Energy Policy Amid Ongoing GEBE Crisis

Philipsburg, St. Maarten, June 20, 2024—During a recent parliamentary session, Francisco Lacroes, Member of Parliament for the United People’s Party, urged the Council of Ministers to finalize the revision of the national Energy Policy approved on April 24, 2014. Lacroes emphasized the urgency of addressing the ongoing power outages and load-shedding issues plaguing the island due to the inefficiencies at NV GEBE.
He highlighted a critical point from the 2014 Energy Policy, which advocates moving away from using Diesel and Heavy Fuel Oils for power production. He criticized the current plans to continue with generators that rely on these fuels, calling the continued use “alarming” and suggesting that it makes the report a “waste of time.” He also said that based on the presentation, his takeaway was that he still needed concrete information to give the general public about the government’s plans for the electricity crisis.

“I heard things like too expensive and could take six weeks or three months, and would not make sense, and all sorts of comments, but nothing that says to the people of St. Maarten, we ordered the generator on this date, and it will be here working on this date, and that means you would have x less load shedding or no load shedding.”
He further noted that the newly proposed generators would take at least three months to arrive, countering claims that they would be operational within six weeks.
MP Lacroes said the 20MegaWatts generator barge proposed @ U$3.9 Million MONTHLY vs Containerized generators that produces 1 MegaWatt per Unit at a cost of U$300k per month. What the PM opted for is a more expensive solution that would take a longer time to bring relief. He explained that needing 20 containerized generators would be needed to cover the 20 MegaWatts, which is 300k x 20 is 6 Million per month excluding fuel, which runs us presently approximately US$3 Million.

Reflecting on his time at the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications (TEATT), Lacroes mentioned that the United People’s Party had previously asked necessary questions and prepared relevant documents to improve energy production. He also pointed out a request to use St. Maarten as a transhipment point for LNG, suggesting that the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication TEATT should explore this opportunity to generate revenue for the country, by being able to have ships switch their engines off and plug in for a cost, that’s the responsibility of TEATT.
With a transshipment port LNG would also be able to be sold from Sint Maarten, regionally and internationally, being one of the first of this possibility in the Caribbean.
Lacroes also called for an investigation into alleged price gouging by the fuel company SOL. He expressed frustration over the four hours wasted in Parliament, hoping to hear a concrete solution from the Prime Minister for the people. Still, he noted that the presentation failed to provide clear answers on what consumers can expect regarding the restoration and stabilization of electricity. He questioned the oversight of fuel pricing at SOL, saying he had already inquired in the past about who from the Government or NV GEBE verifies that the fuel supplied by Sol based on one low price is finished before SOL then goes and offers fuel at a higher price. “It is impossible for the price to be a dollar today and suddenly finish, with the next barge costing 150,” he remarked. He said the whole picture regarding NV GEBE had to be looked into, including the fuel clause being blamed for the high prices.

At the same time, MP Lacroes is asking for the TEATT Minister to explain to the general public how St. Maarten became stuck with this fuel clause that is causing the excessive electricity bills and explain how SOL was able to maintain a monopoly on the supply of fuel to GEBE for this long, not to mention that these fuel clause now also appears on our water bills.
Expressing disappointment with the current situation, Lacroes pointed out that Bonaire has enjoyed stable energy without outages for the past five years. He compared this to St. Maarten’s struggles, highlighting the need for better energy solutions. He also points out that the country was offered engines in the past, which would have not been at any cost, but as a condition to execute a mirrored imaged solution as that of Bonaire, and so without any cost to Government at the time.

Lacroes said the island has currently been facing constant power outages and load shedding for too long. Based on the look on the faces of the Prime Minister, Acting Minister of The Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure VROMI, and Minister of TEATT, who were all present at Parliament and smiling, the situation does not seem to have their full attention. He asked whether past solutions that were offered by giants in the industry have been considers and if any of these companies have been approached in the interest of the country, and the financially strapped Gebe NV?

In his press release, MP Lacroes said, “The present Council of Ministers should take a look at the 2014 Energy Policy if they want to be a responsible government.” He emphasized that setbacks should be viewed as learning experiences and urged the government to act decisively to restore reliable power to the island. One of his points for suggesting LNG is that US$700 Dollars’ worth of Diesel spent, would produce the same amount of electricity that US$100 worth of LNG would. “Yes $7.00 versus $ 1.00,” said MP Lacroes.

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