Leong Sze Hian
Singapore Power made profits of $1.086 billion in FY2007/2008, which is a per annum increase of 15 per cent. Despite this, in the last quarter of 2009, electricity tariffs for household was raised by 12.5 per cent. And now, in April 2010, it is being raised again. (See here)
Everyone is asking: Why is the electricity tariff up again on 1 April, despite the decline in real wages last year, about 60,000 residents still unemployed as of December, and Singapore is just coming out of its worst recession?
Well, the answer may be that we do not have the answers to the following questions:-
According to this government website, "From 2000 to 2006, the electricity generated by natural gas has increased from 19% to 78%." So, why is the electricity tariff pegged to crude oil prices which have been rising, unlike natural gas prices?
Since Singapore’s overall power generation efficiency has improved from 38% in 2000 to 44% in 2006, why has it not been translated into savings for consumers? (See here)
Why are the contracts between power generation companies and suppliers confidential? If such information is public information, we can try to determine the link between crude oil, gas prices and electricity prices, and also how and why so much profits are being made?
Why were all our three power generation companies given to Temasek sold to foreign companies without any debate in Parliament on the sale of such strategic state assets?
In most countries, electricity infrastructure funding is rarely borne by the operators. It is part of national development and, rightly, should come from the state's coffers. So, why is Singapore so different in this respect? Why not lower electricity and gas charges and fund power infrastructure investments using general taxes?
According to Hong Kong electricity producer CLP Power, which supplies about 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s power needs, in a media statement in Sep 2008, Singapore was ranked second among 21 cities for raising electricity tariffs most, since 2005. Why?
According to the Energy Market Authority's (EMA's) chart on fuel oil price versus the low tension tariff, the tariff was $22.62 in January 2008 when fuel oil was $96.64. Since the tariff is pegged to fuel oil, why is the tariff for January 2009, at $22.93, higher than that in January 2008, when fuel oil was lower at $92.99 compared to $96.64 in January 2008? This means that year-on-year, despite a 4-per-cent fall in fuel oil, the tariff increased by 1 per cent. So, is the tariff pegged to fuel oil or not?
Singapore Power made profits of $1.086 billion in FY2007/2008, which is a per annum increase of 15 per cent, from the $630 million profits in FY2003/2004. Why allow a state company that has a monopoly in providing an essential utility to make so much profits?
What are the total profits in a year for the electricity sector, i.e. the delivery of electricity (Singapore Power) and the power generation companies?
Why is it taking so long for there to be competition in the electricity sector, and the opening up of the retail electricity market?
According to the Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, the water, electricity and gas tariffs' price indices rose by 8.6, 2.8, and 4.2 per cent a year from 1995 to 2005, against inflation of just one per cent.
In the last quarter of 2009, electricity tariffs for household was raised by 12.5 per cent. (Channelnewsasia)
Why were electricity prices allowed to increase so much more than inflation?
Singapore is the country with the highest electricity prices in the region and charges its consumers more than countries like the United States and France. Why?
How many households are in arrears on their electricity bills?
Why are there no regular updates in Parliament or the media, on the statistics of "households in arrears", number of PAYU meters, electricity sector profits, etc?
How are the key corporate officers and board members selected and appointed to the various boards in the electricity sector? How independent are they? How likely are they to look out for the interests of consumers?
Many of the above questions may not need to be raised in most other countries, as the electricity sector is generally considered as a public good that demands the highest standards of corporate governance, transparency, accountability, parliamentary oversight, etc.
In 2008, in response to a letter to the Straits Times, the Energy Market Authority said:
We agree with Mr Serrien that regulators should create mechanisms to protect consumers instead of simply 'passing the bill' to them. This is why the Energy Market Authority has focused on restructuring and liberalising the electricity market, to drive efficiency gains and ensure competitive pricing of electricity. The Government has also set up the Energy Efficiency Programme Office to design and implement energy efficiency programmes across different sectors. Going forward, we will continue to do our part to help households conserve energy and save on their electricity bills.
Headline picture from: http://www.khngai.com
In September 2009:
In April 2010: