Te Aponga Uira (TAU) has announced it seeks private sector investment in solar arrays for 4 MW of solar energy. This would require millions of dollars of investment, probably $7 million to $8m in total.
Most people who are interested in installing solar
arrays expect they would be able to save on their electricity costs. That’s not
the case with TAU’s offer to the public. It doesn’t matter whether the
electricity consumer spends $10,000, $100,000 or $1m on solar arrays there is
NIL savings in cost for the consumer.
Every unit must be paid for at TAU’s standard charges.
In place of savings, TAU’s scheme is to pay the
consumer $0.25 per unit of electricity the consumer is compulsorily required to
sell to TAU. For those paying TAU’s
commercial rate the consumer has the privilege of buying back those units at
$0.92 per unit. Although some margin for TAU is appropriate and widely
accepted, a mark-up of 268 per cent by TAU is ludicrous.
Would $0.25 per unit provide a fair return to
investors in solar arrays? All the people I have spoken to say it’s too low.
TAU has called for expressions of interest by a short
closing date of 16 November and says it wants agreements in place by December
(a staggeringly short timeframe).
So what’s going on?
Over the last five years in meetings with TAU and
other Government personnel I have criticised TAU of losing focus of its primary
role of providing the public with sustainable electricity at the cheapest
price. TAU has evolved into a financial institution to make profits to be spent
on non-electricity matters. In short, a cash cow; to be milked when required.
In the 2000s when the price of oil increased
substantially TAU, appropriately, increased its tariffs for the sale of
electricity. When oil prices decreased significantly TAU kept its tariffs high.
The effect was overcharging electricity consumers and TAU building a pile of
cash. In 2018 TAU had $27m in cash.
When first established the annual accounts of TAU
(owned by the public) were required to be tabled in Parliament. This meant the
public could access the accounts and scrutinise what was going on. The law
changed to designate Cook Islands Investment Corporation (CIIC) as the
“shareholder” of TAU. TAU’s accounts ceased to be tabled in Parliament. They
are sent to CIIC and absorbed in CIIC’s accounts. The direct scrutiny of TAU by
the public was lost.
Dividends from excess profits of TAU go to CIIC and
can be spent by CIIC on whatever CIIC chooses. Don’t be surprised that doesn’t
include direct benefits to the electricity consumers of Rarotonga (the people
who are the source of the profits).
TAU’s present scheme for private sector investment in
solar arrays (with its short timeframe to participate and low investment
return) has been designed to fail. The promoters don’t want the pesky private
sector involved asking questions, seeking transparency, calling for scrutiny.
Better to lock the private sector out, seek more aid funds and preserve TAU as
a source of funds for non-Rarotonga electricity matters.
The Government has previously said that the
Competition and Regulatory Authority, an independent public watchdog, will be
given jurisdiction over TAU because of TAU’s monopoly position. That would be a
good start but something more is required for fair and equitable treatment of
Rarotonga’s electricity consumers.
I read with interest Howard Henry’s opinion piece in
the Cook Islands News (page 5, Saturday) regarding “unlocking” the door to join
the UN. I find it ironic that the MP for Takuvaine hobnobbing with President
Biden, while on page two of the same edition some poor motorcyclist was bitten
by a dog. Police record 87 complaints March to September of these 15 are
attacks on people and 33 attacks on livestock. You are the MP for Takuvaine,
and Minister of Police. In my view if you can’t sort these basic priorities at
home then you shouldn’t be looking further afield but rather staying at home and
sorting the priorities at home.
(Name and address supplied)
Religious council stops short of
condemning homophobic letter
No one should be surprised that the Religious Advisory
Council (RAC) “Stops short of condemning homophobic letter”.
Over the years, the RAC has failed to publicly condemn
those Members of Parliament, including prime ministers, who the public knows
have been in long-term adulterous relationships. When did the RAC condemn
various Oro Metua for remaining silent when learning that parishioners were
committing incest on an on-going basis?
When the principal of one religious school had sexual
relations with a student, where was the public condemnation? Where a pastor of
a church is aware of chronic drunken beating of spouse and children, where is
the RAC to condemn the hypocrisy?
To the self-proclaimed prophet and the self-proclaimed
morality police called the RAC – clean up what goes on behind your own closed
doors before you talk about what you think goes on behind your neighbour’s
(Name and address supplied)
Muri speed zone
The 30kph speed limit on both sides of the Muri
tourist district means that more visitors will feel safe enough to walk to the
centre of the village to spend the millions of dollars that our bean-counting
tourism promoters claim we can’t live without. Why haven’t we widened the
roadway and had actual bike/pedestrian pathways, with beautiful landscaping
We had two years of no visitors to improve the safety
and appeal of that walk, and we did nothing. Indeed, our government “planners”
seem to go out of the way to make it worse. Who signed off the building
consents for yet another church with no off-street parking provided?
The white lines through Muri, that overseas visitors
will take as designating bike/pedestrian paths, are, much of the time covered
in parked cars. The paths, not wide enough for the parked cars.
Even 30kph is too fast when the village is
chock-a-block with cars. If you got to drive at 50kph, move to Auckland.