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Little Sark could go dark if SEL makes good on threats to cut power

Little Sark could go dark if SEL makes good on threats to cut power

Wednesday 06 July 2022

Little Sark could go dark if SEL makes good on threats to cut power

Wednesday 06 July 2022


Little Sark could be left in the dark tomorrow, if the owner of Sark Electricity Limited makes good on his threat to cut power to the island.

The deadline imposed by SEL for a response to their requests to replace an ageing electricity cable which powers Little Sark is tomorrow. Alan Witney-Price, Managing Director of SEL, gave Sark’s parliament – Chief Pleas – two weeks to provide the necessary permissions and wayleaves required to dig a trench and lay a new cable across La Coupee.

He threatened to cut the cable on July 7 if these demands were not met due to safety concerns.

Now he says Chief Pleas have yet to respond directly to SEL, and that the overall safety of La Coupee is questionable.

Mr Witney-Price urged Chief Pleas to “reach out and talk” in a widely distributed letter yesterday and reiterated that SEL is prepared to maintain supply to Little Sark throughout the works process.

Last week, Sark formally declared its intention to establish a secondary energy system parallel to that of SEL through a tender process.

SEL say that statement is “nonsense” and “pure theatre” since Sark has no licensing authority, and any competitor can enter the market at any time.

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Pictured: SEL fears it will be liable for accidents caused by the ageing electricity grid, and has repeatedly requested legislative permission to replace cables across the island.

Since the initial threat, Mr Witney-Price claims significant concerns have been raised over “the structural integrity of La Coupee”.

“P&F and the wider Chief Pleas are well aware of the serious flaws in La Coupee, but it steadfastly refuses to resolve them. It is easier to make SEL the scapegoat than admit their own failure to maintain the integrity of this historic and vital causeway. 

“It was remarked in recent days in an email to Conseiller Guille, by the Douzaine that: ‘La Coupee is simply not structurally stable enough to withstand deep service trenching’.

“Further, by a seperate member of the executive, that: ‘You’d most certainly require a structural survey of La Coupee before slicing the road surface, it may be the only thing holding it together’.

“If Chief Pleas has a preferred alternative, to digging up the roadway they could have picked up the phone and arranged a meeting with SEL to discuss those alternatives. 

“Instead, they ignored our application, accused SEL of operating unsafe equipment and chose brinkmanship rather than dialogue.”

Mr Witney-Price questioned why Chief Pleas would allow La Coupee to still be usable given its structural problems. 

“Will La Coupee collapsing and burying a beach full of people be the last straw?”

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Pictured: Chief Pleas are planning to publish a policy letter this summer on setting up a secondary electricity supplier.

Conseiller John Guille, of Sark’s Policy & Finance Committee, argued that the request to replace the cable was only “recently suggested,” and questioned why the cable could not be replaced externally to La Coupee.

This was firmly rejected by Mr Witney-Price: “The original request for permissions goes back almost two years. Our latest application, made in a desperate attempt to get some engagement from Chief Pleas on this matter, was submitted in November 2021, some seven months ago. It has been met with total silence from Chief Pleas.”

“In the normal course of business, digging up what is predominantly a dirt road is not more expensive or a more disruptive method. It is the cheapest, fastest, and safest way to deal with replacing what is currently a surface mounted cable that is being repeatedly hit by falling debris. Burying it is sensible. 

“But again, this is something that we can discuss and would discuss if Chief Pleas had ever chosen to reach out.”

READ MORE…

“Legitimate permissions from the authorities” needed to replace cable

Power cable could be cut in weeks

Tender process for new Sark electricity system

FOCUS: "Eye-watering" prices inevitable as Bailiwick governments fail to engage

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