Kinbidhoo without power for 24 hours, council claims

The Vice President of Kinbidhoo Council has informed local media that the island’s residents have been without electricity for over 24 hours.

“People are facing a lot of difficulties due to the power cut. It’s not possible to live without electricity anymore, so people are really suffering,” Hassan Mohamed told Sun Online.

It has been reported that technicians arrived yesterday evening to repair issues with the island’s two generators, which had stopped working at 8:00am that morning.

South Central Utilities Ltd is the electricity provider for the 1,200 people of the island in Thaa Atoll.


STELCO says new generators may be ready in two weeks

The Maldives’ State Electricity Company (STELCO) has announced that work on its two new generators will be completed in two weeks, Sun Online has reported.

It is anticipated that the installation of these two generators, said to be worth €28 (US$36million), will end the regular power cuts experienced in the capital Male’. The frequency of these cuts has led the company to provide an update service on its website, informing its customers when and where their districts will be without power.

STELCO media coordinator Ibrahim Raoof told Sun that these cuts had come as the current grid is capable of providing 36MW whilst the city requires 39MW. The two new generators will provide an additional 8MW each.

Work on the two generators began in 2009 and had been scheduled to take 18 months. The German and Danish companies responsible for the installation had given May 20 as the date for completion.

Raoof told Sun that if technical problems continue, this new deadline may also be pushed back.


DQP MP submits resolution to cut fuel surcharge

The Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has submitted a resolution to parliament calling on the government to cut the fuel surcharge included in the electricity bill every month.

In the resolution, DQP MP Riyaz Rasheed claims that the fuel surcharge was “a type of tax unapproved by the parliament and taken from the citizens, despite the laws clearly stating that any tax could only be taken after parliament approves it.’’

“When President Mohamed Nasheed was campaigning for the presidential election, the pledge he made publicly was to lower the electricity tariff,” Riyaz Rasheed said in the resolution. “It could be believed that raising the electricity tariff from month to month is a deliberate attempt made by the government to make the citizens poor.”

In the resolution the MP says that electricity is one of the country’s basic needs and that due to the hike in electricity tariffs, “today citizens have to spend bulk of their wage on electricity.”

The resolution also says that the owners of medium-sized businesses were worried about the future of their businesses “because of the government’s decision to float the dollar exchange rate in to a band of Rf10.28 – Rf15.42 which has made the prices of goods increase.”

The MP also called on the government to cease withdrawing taxes from the citizens in the name of fees or charges “at a time when adults and children are forced to live in poverty.”

In May last year the main opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) led protests outside State Electric Company (STELCO) complaining about increased electricity tariffs.


US$90 million solar power project for Thaa and Laamu atolls

A US$90 million (Rf1.2 billion) project agreement to provide solar powered electricity to the Upper South Province of Maldives (Thaa and Laamu atolls) has been signed by Upper South Utilities Limited with BBM Infra Limited of India.

The 24 mega watt solar power facility will be built by BBM in association with two Chinese companies to provide electricity to all islands of Upper South Province .

The project should commence within 2-3 months, says the managing director of Upper South Utilities Limited Ahmed Saeed Mohamed, and would reduce the cost of electricity by 20 percent.

BBM Infra Ltd is part of the BBM Bommidala Group, based on the tobacco trade. BBM Infra, the newest company in this group, is expanding into solar power, construction machinery, and highway projects.


President speaks of improving electricity and healthcare

In his weekly radio address on the Voice of Maldives on Friday morning, President Mohamed Nasheed spoke of providing affordable and reliable electricity, and quality healthcare, in the islands.

He said it was important that all islands receive electricity from their respective provincial utilities company. President Nasheed said that in his recent visits to the atolls he found the utilities companies provided electricity more efficiently than in the previous system, where electricity was managed by communities.

He added, however, that some islands are opposing the policy to transfer the management of island powerhouses to utilities companies.

Speaking on healthcare, President Nasheed said it was an important priority of the government. He said the government is continuously working to improve the standard of healthcare facilities in the islands.

He added that once the nationwide transport system is complete, it will complement the healthcare policy, as it will provide people better access to their nearest health facility, if the service they require is not available on their island.


President reiterates commitment to electricity subsidies

The president has revealed the government will further subsidise electricity bills to cushion people in Male’ from rising energy costs.

Speaking in his weekly radio address, President Mohamed Nasheed acknowledged that many households in Male’ were having difficulty with the new electricity prices.

“Our estimate is that about 3000 households struggle to pay their bills. Therefore, the government has decided to provide them with more support,” he said.

President Nasheed also stated that more people were being made aware about the application process for subsidies.

STELCO, the state electricity company, recently dramatically increased the price for the first 300 units of electricity. In response, a group MPs from the ruling government’s own party came forward to urge the government to do something.

The government has said previously that it will broaden eligibility for subsidies, noting that the current eligibility criteria was based on data collected in 1997.

Under that data, the poverty line is considered Rf 21 (US$1.50) a day. The president said that a new survey was under way.


Party backlash over 33% boost in electricity prices

The ruling Maldivian Demcratic Party (MDP) have expressed concern over the raised electricity prices in Male’.

“It has always been a vow of the MDP to lower living costs, however at the moment electricity prices are ridiculously high,” said MDP chairperson Mariya Didi.

MDP MP Hamid Abdul Gafoor explained the main issue was the change in the pricing scheme.

“On average, a household will use at least 300 to 350 units of electricity in a month,” he said.

STELCO, the state electric company, recently dramatically increased the price for the first 300 units of electricity. The first hundred units have risen from Rf1.60 to Rf2.25, while the second and third hundred units have risen from Rf .70 and Rf2.15 to Rf2.50 each.

That means the average monthly electricity bill for household has risen almost overnight from Rf545 ($US42) to Rf725 ($US56).

“Many people are assuming we are attacking the government, but we are just voicing the concerns of the people,” Hamid said.

Currently there is a Rf45 subsidy per head per day to help with the cost of electricity for households with monthly incomes of less than Rf9450 ($US735).

“We have to get rid of this mentality that if a house hold electricity bill is high, they are well off,” urged MDP MP Eva Abdulla. “We have to assume that it might just be 12 people living in that household, chipping in for the bill – this is the reality.”

The president’s office issued a statement claiming the government was listening to the concerned MPs.

“We can’t provide additional financial assistance to STELCO – if we did that we would have to start printing money, and this would devalue the ruffiyya,” said the president’s press secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.

Hamid agreed that the solution was not to print more money.

“If we were to print an additional Rf50 million, it would only raise inflation and we would have no control over prices,” he said.

“The MDP wants to increase the subsidy, but there are many issues we need to rethink,” he said. “The figures we are currently using to calculate eligibility for the subsidy is very outdated, so there is research underway to get a ground figure.”

Mariya noted that many eligible households were failing to claim the subsidy.

“We have conducted house-to-house research and found that many people do not have sufficient information about the subsidy and thus have not been filling out their subsidy forms,” she said.


The government could only boost subsidies if it reduced its current spending, Eva claimed, renewing the government’s controversial calls to slim the administration by reducing the spend on civil servant salaries.

“The government needs to reduce the civil service – offices should only have the required number of employees for optimal performance. Only then will government spending be reduced,” she said.

Civil service spending must be kept “on hold” until the government’s income surpassed Rf7 billion, Hamid said.