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LETTER: TAU’s solar bid ‘designed to fail’

Tuesday 25 October 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTER: TAU’s solar bid ‘designed to fail’

Dear Editor, 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.

Yours sincerely

Trevor Clarke

UN Membership

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.

Old Dog

(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 closed doors.

(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 installed?

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.

(Name and address supplied)