Tariff review sparks concerns

Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association CEO Fantasha Lockington. Picture: JONA KONATACI/FT FILE

Deep concerns have been raised within the local business and industrial sectors, including tourism operators regarding the recent pursuit of a tariff review by Energy Fiji Ltd (EFL) with the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission (FCCC).

In a media release issued yesterday the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) shared their dismay at EFL’s justification for a tariff increase.

FHTA chief executive officer Fantasha Lockington said the association believed that EFL’s approach to renewable energy sources, in the context of global climate change efforts, should be seen as an opportunity for innovation rather than as a threat to their commercial gains, given the $58 million profit it recently announced for 2022 despite Fijian families and businesses experiencing continuing power outages, disruptions and ongoing difficulties to access power for rural households and commercial investments.

While EFL had pointed to genuine challenges such as rising costs of fuel and necessity to develop hydro projects, Ms Lockington said the association underscored the paramount importance of sustainable practices and the need to either maintain or lower business costs, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the expected devastating impacts of climate change being seen more often around the world.

According to the FHTA the tourism industry has progressively embraced sustainability as a cornerstone of its business strategies, adding that renewable energy sources, including solar power, have proven to be reliable and economically viable options for reducing electricity expenses while reducing their carbon footprints.

“We are absolutely appalled by EFL’s reasoning for a tariff increase that includes their perception that renewable energy alternatives might drive up costs to a reduced customer base that may only be low-income earners; instead of working with their customers to embrace where the entire world is going except for them.

“This is simply ignoring what the future and climate change demands we must do now.

“The reasoning behind the pursuit of a tariff increase is bizarre and deeply flawed,” said Ms Lockington. She said advanced solar power technologies could now provide more efficient energy solutions for households, businesses, industries and public and commercial buildings. The inability and unwillingness of the sole power provider (EFL) to embrace the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels was completely at odds with the government’s Cabinet-approved National Energy Policy 2023–2030. Ms Lockington said the policy cites a “commitment to providing access to affordable, reliable, secure, and sustainable energy services to all Fijians through a safe and efficient transition of Fiji’s energy systems, transport, and infrastructure from its existing reliance on imported fossil fuels to low carbon and renewable-energy based technologies”.

The association will be making a formal submission on the issue.

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