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"Restrained anger" as Sark to refuse electric bills

Monday 02 December 2019

"Restrained anger" as Sark to refuse electric bills

Nearly 100 people in Sark are going to refuse to pay their full electricity bills this month, in protest of Sark Electricity Limited putting the price up to "excessive" heights.

This comes after an inconclusive meeting, which was promising to wrap up the ongoing back and forth over the price of power, left many of the island's residents "angry and frustrated".

The "baffling meeting" instead saw Sark Electricity's Director, David Gordon-Brown, interviewed on a pre-recorded Youtube video about the situation, and then present three ways forward. He was not in the island, as he was too sick to travel. 

The lack of direction coming out of that meeting left the Sark Electricity Users Group in a state of shock, and they quickly decided to write a letter to Mr Gordon-Brown to tell him they would not be paying his extremely high price of 85p per unit. This letter gathered 98 signatures in less than 36 hours.

The letter reads: "We, the undersigned, would like to give you notice that, from December 1 2019, we will not pay the full 85 per kWh if it is demanded by SEL [...].

"On 14 November 2019 the Price Control Commissioner published a draft Price Control Order indicating that a fair and reasonable price is about 53p per kWh. Prior to any Price Control Order that might be issued, we can confirm that we will pay 66p per kWh for any electricity consumed, and adjust the amount of any bill issued at a higher price accordingly."

David Gordon Brown SEL Sark

Pictured: David Gordon-Brown, right, is the Director of Sark Electricity, but could not travel to the island because of illness. Instead he recorded a video which was played at the meeting. 

Indeed, Dr Anthony White, who was hired by Sark's Government to try and mediate the electricity price situation, believes SEL is trying to fleece its customers, and is expected to consider legally enshrining a price cap at the start of next year. He has had access to the businesses figures, but Mr Gordon-Brown has said charging what Dr White suggests would bankrupt them.

Mr Gordon-Brown has also responded to the Sark Electricity Users Group's letter on Twitter, simply saying it is up to Chief Pleas to take action. This was the same message he gave in his video at the meeting: the three options were for the island's government to buy the business, for the island's government to negotiate Guernsey Electricity buying the business, or for the island's government to work out the details of the so-called 'Green Deal'. 

In a press release accompanying their letter, a spokesperson for the Sark Electricity Users Group said: "On the evening of November 28, the sports hall at the Island Hall was crammed with residents, it was standing room only. The meeting had been called by the Director of Sark Electricity Limited to put forward reasons for the current charge of 85p/unit and options for the future. Members of the Sark Electricity User Group witnessed the anger and frustration of many, at one point a handful of the audience walked out in disgust. Subsequent to the inconclusive meeting the group took less than 36 hours to get 98 signatures on a letter to be sent to the Director of Sark Electricity Limited by the 30 of November. In a small community such as Sark this is extraordinary.

"The Sark Electricity Users Group believes that this support, gathered under pressure of time, reflects the level of fear, dissatisfaction and even restrained anger felt by many Sark residents and their frustration at the inadequate level of clarity provided by Sark Electricity Limited."

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