Guam – The dependency on crude oil is the primary reason power bills on Guam are so high, according to CCU Chairman Simon Sanchez. He’s responding to a Guam Power Authority survey released earlier this year where most people complained of increasing power rates.
Brown tree snakes, crude oil prices and surcharges are just some of the excuses survey participants found hard to believe from GPA management as the reasons for increasing power bills and recurring power outages, according to a qualitative research survey. GPA requested the survey first in August 2011 and then again sometime in November 2011 with about 400 participants.
The results came out in January 2012 for the second survey and revealed that about 52 percent of GPA customers were satisfied, giving GPA a rating of between 6 or higher from a scale of 1 to 10.
While customers were generally satisfied, many of them expressed their satisfaction with the improved customer service and reliability. The other 48 percent who were dissatisfied complained about power outages, the rising cost of power despite efforts to save and damaged appliances from power surges.
CCU Chairman Simon Sanchez agrees that the power agency still has a long way to go in building a positive image, but he tells PNC News that Guam is at a disadvantage when compared to other mainland states and cities that have other sources of energy such as hydroelectric, coal, natural gas, nuclear and geothermal energy.
“The bottom line is Guam is 100 percent reliant on oil. When guam was building generation capacity in the 70s, oil was $6 a barrel–everyone used oils,” said Sanchez. “In the late 90s we were having load shedding blues, we were bringing in more capacity and what was the technology used? Oil. Why? Because in the late 90s even in the early 2000s–$16 dollars a barrel. Well now it’s $90, $110 dollars a barrel. We used to spend $100 million a year in early 2000s for fuel, we now spend close to$ 300 million a year.”
Despite the complaints, GPA Spokesman Art Perez says the power company is actually thrilled with the results of the survey because it gives the agency a benchmark for improving services and reducing costs. The last time GPA conducted a survey was in the mid 90s, Perez says. He emphasized that on the upside, there were also comments from customers about the improved reliability and service.
Guam was once notorious for brown outs that lasted for several hours, but now, Perez says, most power outages are scheduled in advance for maintenance. If there are any unexpected power outages, Perez notes that it lasts less than an hour if not within a few minutes.
Meanwhile, Sanchez says GPA is always looking at ways to save customers including exploring the feasibility of liquid natural gas.
“Liquid natural gas is trending 15 to 20 percent cheaper than oil right now. There’s a revolution going on right now in the techonolgoy of liquid natural gas that is making it easier to discover and is opening up a huge supply of LNG globally through this new technology. So coutnries like Japan who’ve gone through the nuclear challenge and say they’re no longer building nuclear plants they’re going to LNG. Gpa’s looking to go over to liquid natural gas,” Sanchez says.