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Sark faces another electricity crisis

Sark faces another electricity crisis

Friday 04 September 2020

Sark faces another electricity crisis


Emergency electricity generators are being shipped to Sark after it was revealed that 19 households will be cut off from the island's power supply at just four days' notice in yet another emerging crisis.

Sark Electricity Director Alan Jackson has written to residents informing them that, due to a decision in the island's court, 19 households will be disconnected from the grid on Monday.

It raises fears that, just two years since the previous electricity crisis in the island, Sark may find itself in the grip of another "entirely avoidable and unnecessary" power struggle between SEL and members of Sark's Government.  

It comes after a tenement owner exercised a legal right to have all of SEL's cabling and other equipment removed from La Tour because of health and safety concerns and because it is "trespassing" upon his land.

sark electricity Alan Jackson

Pictured: Sark Electricity Director Alan Jackson has said he will stop any and all investment into the company unless Sark's Government acts on previous licensing policy decisions. 

This will not only cut off those who lease property in the tenement, but a number of residents who live nearby. 

"I am left with no option but to accede to this legal demand," said Mr Jackson. "I am acutely aware of the distress this will cause, especially as we move towards the winter months."

"This is not what I want to do, I am simply left with no choice."

Mr Jackson does not blame the landowner, who he said is well within his rights to request the equipment is removed from his land or go off-grid. The SEL Director has instead laid the blame squarely at the feet of the island's Policy & Finance Committee, which he says has failed to draft a licensing law, as directed by Sark's Government, that "would have given SEL the tools" to deny the request. 

He also claims P&F have blocked a government debate on the matter and ignored his pleas for help.

Government House

Pictured: Mr Jackson said he has appealed to, among others, Guernsey's Government House, Sark's Seigneur and the Crown.

"I believe that Chief Pleas has an executive obligation to debate matters as significant as this in the interests of residents, but they have been denied the opportunity to do so," Mr Jackson said in a letter to customers. "Despite the fact that as taxpayers you will have already paid for this Law to be drafted at the instruction of a Committee of Chief Pleas. 

"The past determinations by Chief Pleas and policy precedents are being ignored. Way leaves are now being requested by Chief Pleas over a licensing regime."

The request to negotiate more than 80 separate contractual way leave negotiations would, if enforced, cripple SEL financially, Mr Jackson told Express.

Even in a best-case scenario with little dispute from occupiers, he said it would cost at least £175,000 to draft and lodge those individual agreement and around 12 years to recover those costs, assuming there were no other matters that required legal representation during that time.

"The economic impact of this decision is immense," he said. 

"I and the Advocates of Sark Electricity have been discussing this matter for many months and at significant cost. Not in combative litigation but in open and genuine dialogue befitting the concept of a 21st century democracy. 

sarkventure_by_chrisgeorge.jpg

Pictured: Policy & Finance has been in the news in recent weeks due to a high-profile dispute with the directors of Sark Shipping about their management of the island's lifeline ferry service.

"I am asking for a full, open and transparent enquiry into how, in a 21st century democracy, such as decision as this could ever have been made by Policy & Finance."

It is Sark residents who will suffer the most, with Mr Jackson set to tackle P&F head on by placing all inward investment into Sark "on permanent hold".

"SEL must now operate within its own financial means until such time that I have comfort that the legislative and policy framework enacted on Sark is fit for purpose."

Mr Jackson is arranging for emergency diesel generators to be shipped to Sark and is also asking other residents with generators to support the residents who will be disconnected from the grid. 

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