Kudos to Governor Fitial for reducing the number of blackouts on the island of Saipan. From the discussions I have heard floating around the community this week, the power is staying on longer and the number of blackouts has dropped, as has the duration of the blackouts.
Reliable power has brought great relief to the people of Saipan trying to run a business or trying to get their kids to sleep at night. Day to day life in Saipan has gotten easier now that the power is staying on.
Things are not all rainbows and unicorns, however, there is a definite downside.
Our electricity bills are going to go up. The leased generators and the reliable power they bring comes at a cost. We have to pay for their lease and we have to pay for the larger amount of fuel it will take to run them. Also, instead of 15 hours of power per day we are going to have to pay for 24 hours of power in our homes and in our businesses.
Therein lies the crux of the complaint of the 500 plus people that braved the soggy weather to "protest" CUC. They demand reliable and affordable power.
Many people are simply relieved that the air conditioners are staying on. Well, let's wait and see how those people feel when they get that next electricity bill.
This is going to be this Administration and this Legislature's next hurdle. Now that they are providing relatively reliable power, how can they provide affordable power?
The people at the bottom rung of the economic ladder are going to need the most help. So are the small businesses struggling to eek out single digit profit margins. Most homes and businesses have already turned off the water heater, opened the windows, turned on the fans, removed half the light bulbs, and unplugged all the unused appliances. Everyone is asking themselves, "What more can we do?"
The crisis with CUC is the biggest threat to our islands. We pay in utility bills in one month what someone in California pays in six months. There are other financial benefits to living in the CNMI, such as lower taxes, no commutes, lower costs of insurance and housing, but balancing and weighing these costs and benefits has a lot of people considering a move. Many already have.