But he said that Government and the Regulatory Authority would take steps to increase competition from alternative energy providers — and ensure "fair and equitable" access to the BELCO supply network for new power companies.

Mr Richards told MPs: "One of the reasons that Bermuda's recession has lasted five years is due to its loss of competitiveness.

"A significant part of our uncompetitiveness is high cost, a big component of which is the high cost of electricity.

"The break even point for our hotels and other enterprises is pushed significantly higher by the high cost of electricity, making them less competitive versus other jurisdictions where costs are lower and therefore more attractive to investors.

"Also, the high cost of electricity is a great burden for the Bermudian people whose buying power is reduced due to the high cost of just keeping the lights on."

Mr Richards added that the Island's small size meant that electricity supply tended to be a "natural monopoly."

He said: "While, BELCO has had a generally good record for reliability, Bermudians have paid dearly for the lack of competition in electrical power.

"Over the long history of BELCO's tenure as the monopoly electricity provider, the company has more in common with Government in terms of accountability and innovation than it does with private enterprises that operate in a competitive environment — an environment in which if you don't innovate, minimise your costs and provide the best value to your customers, your competition will bury you.

"For BELCO and Government, being buried is not an issue."

He added: "Ironically, while BELCO and the Bermuda Government have no local competition, their inefficiency is eroding Bermuda's competitive position as a jurisdiction that provides value to customers in what is obviously a very competitive world.

"The time has come to address this issue in both these institutions."

Mr Richards said that the price new energy firms using solar, wind or wave power would pay to access the BELCO distribution grid was "crucial to their economic success or failure."

He added: "Former Governments have not exerted much regulatory control over BELCO and while this OBA Government is a great believer in the power of private enterprise to provide best value to customers, the monopoly power of BELCO requires close attention and regulation."

Original article

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