Friday, September 19, 2008

The Crisis with CUC

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.


Jeff said...

Kudos to Fitial? Congratulating his handling of the power situation is like getting slammed into by a drunk driver and then complimenting them for calling the ambulance for you -- the ambulance you're paying an exorbitant price for.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

Harry Blalock's latest Food For Thought is about CUC and Fitial..I think.

Jeff said...

Going back before utility prices went through the roof, I had several students who smelled quite ripe for lack of water and power at home. A year or two back there was at least one 18 year old living in the jungle. I can't imagine how much worse that is now.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

If this were happening in the Mainland, every person on this island would have been at the protest.

However, it is not the Mainland.

A lot of people are finally happy that the power is at least mostly reliable. That doesn't help the poor people who can't afford electricity in the first place, though.

Boni has a good post on her blog about CUC.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

You're asking for a regression to the old days that you also call for an end to, Angelo. There used to be 'relatively reliable power' and it was 'affordable' as well. They did it by government subsidies. They took all the money paid by the ratepayers into the system and used it for operations, plus they took more funds wrested from other sources and threw them in on top to keep the lights on. Little or nothing was spent on a decaying infrastructure as we all know and now it has come home to roost. They kept rates artificially low and that was the problem, not the solution.

We should look to someone other than the Administration, this one or any other one to come up with answers to the affordability question. Likewise operations if we don't want to see this emergency fiasco repeated endlessly into the future.

Privatize with a completely open bid process. Then we have a chance for reliable affordable power.

KAP said...

I've been in favor of privatization for 25 years. But realistically, if it ever happens the PUC will suddenly find it has a voice and obstruct any rate changes-- urged on by our more vocal legislators.

The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

As a Democrat, privatization just sounds like a dirty word to me. Guns are OK, though. I don't have a problem with guns.