Find answers to questions you may have here
How much will implementing all three projects cost?
The cost to complete construction of the replacement generation, transmission & distribution upgrades and conversion to LNG will be an estimated $278 – 315 million.
How will BELCO pay for these projects?
BELCO will initially use long-term debt to fund the projects proposed within the Capital Plan. Similar to taking out a mortgage to purchase a house, BELCO will own the assets and pay down the debt over time. The cost would then be recovered through a marginal rate increase of 2-4 cents per kWh. Implementing these projects will ultimately result in more stabilized and potentially lower rates beyond 2021.
Why didn’t BELCO set money aside every year so that when permission is received there would be cash available to fund the three proposed projects?
We had two choices:
Option 1: Set aside funds and earn no more than 1-1.5% interest
Option 2: Pay down current debt, which incurred interest charges of up to 5%
The more financially responsible decision was to pay down the debt. This not only saved money, but also put BELCO in a position to borrow the money that will be needed to pay for the three proposed Capital Plan projects. Using debt is the least costly approach to funding the three projects and thus will be the lowest cost option for our customers. Further, our relatively modest profits over the past decade, and the amount of money now required (caused in part by delays in decision-making by the various governing bodies), would make saving the full amount difficult, if not impossible.
If BELCO can borrow the money, why should I, as a rate payer, have to incur higher rates to cover the cost of these three capital projects?
The current electricity rates cover the cost of doing business today. Implementing the three projects proposed in the Capital Plan will increase the cost of doing business during the implementation phase of the three projects. Today’s rates will not cover that. Unregulated businesses (i.e. grocery stores, gas stations, retail stores) simply raise and lower their prices as their own cost of doing business increases or decreases. As a regulated company, BELCO cannot do that. The Regulator sets the electricity rates that BELCO charges and those rates are based on BELCO being able to earn enough to cover its operating expenses, fuel costs, depreciation of assets, taxes and a reasonable profit, which in turn allows for further investment back into the business.
Why hasn’t BELCO invested in these infrastructure projects before now?
For 12 years, BELCO has not been able to achieve the necessary rate approvals from the various governing commissions/regulators to invest in these three projects. However, the Company has invested $350 million in that same period constructing new peaking generators and upgrading infrastructure, system and facilities.
If so much money is needed, why were dividend levels just increased for Ascendant shareholders? Why not use that money to fund BELCO’s Capital Plan projects?
Ascendant and BELCO have an obligation to balance the needs of all of its stakeholders including customers, employees, lenders, shareholders and the community overall. Shareholders are a critical stakeholder to any company as they provide the initial capital to establish the business and ultimately share in the risks and rewards of that business. The vast majority of Ascendant’s shareholders are Bermudian citizens who rely on their dividend payments. Over the past three years, shareholders have born their brunt of the decreased financial performance of BELCO. In 2014, after 5 years of increased costs with no corresponding rate increases, BELCO’s parent company, Ascendant, found itself in the unenviable position of having its stock prices plummet. The Board undertook a review and ultimately decreased shareholder dividends to a level that was more realistic to the Company’s financial performance at the time (on an annualized basis, from 85 cents per share in 2013 to 30 cents per share in 2014) ~ see graph to the left. Ascendant has been very conservative in how it has paid out its dividends. The recently announced increase brings dividend levels up to 45 cents per share (on an annualized basis), which is still approximately 50% less than dividend levels of 2006 – 2014. This represents approximately 30% of operating earnings, compared to the utility industry norm of dividend payouts that are 50-60% of operating earnings.
So why not just sell more shares instead of increasing rates?
Using debt to cover the cost of the three projects is actually less expensive for the customer than raising money through shares.
What would be the outcome of decreasing or temporarily suspending dividend payments to shareholders?
If Ascendant does not provide a fair dividend to its shareholder base, investors will take their money elsewhere. The share price will go down, which will result in a drop in the value of the Company. This, in turn will negatively impact our ability to raise funds (both through debt and issuing shares) in the future at reasonable rates. We have actually already experienced this. In March 2014, Ascendant’s share price was $10 per share and the quarterly dividend paid to shareholders was 22 ¼ cents per share. In June 2014 the quarterly dividend was decreased to 7 ½ cents per share for each of the quarters of the year. Within six months, the share price decreased by approximately 50% to $5 per share.
How does the new rate regulation for electricity work?
Who is responsible for regulating BELCO?
What goes into setting BELCO’s electricity rate?
Is BELCO going to raise my rates to pay for the three projects it is proposing?
How much will the rate increase be?
Is this an opportunity for BELCO to implement a long-term rate increase?
What is going to happen to my electricity rate if BELCO’s proposal is not accepted?
We have two options:
- Proceed with the Capital Plan, which will result in a 2 – 4 cent/kWh increase in rates to recover the costs of the three projects, ultimately resulting in more stabilized, or potentially lower, rates beyond 2021;
- Do nothing – continue to spend an estimated $26 million+ per year in extra costs on deteriorating systems and deploy more expensive temporary options for generation when the current generators reach end of life. This will result in skyrocketing electricity rates and increased outages.
We believe the best option for our customers is to proceed with the three projects recommended in the Capital Plan. In addition to ensuring that Bermuda has a reliable supply of electricity with substantial environmental benefits, it is also the choice that will stabilize your rates over the long-term.
Can you explain the components of a BELCO Bill?
Advanced Metering Interface (AMI)
What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure ?
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is an integrated system of advanced meters, communication networks and data management systems that enable two-way communication between a utility and its customers.
What is an advanced meter?
An advanced meter is a digital meter that contains a small computer chip and radio that enable information to be transmitted to and from BELCO over a secure network in near real-time.
Are advanced meters safe?
Safety comes first in everything we do. The AMI equipment being installed is compliant with international health and safety standards, including FCC regulations. We also took the extra step of conducting extensive independent research to ensure the wellbeing of the people of Bermuda, including ourselves, our families and friends.The results confirmed that the exposure to radio frequency from an AMI meter is much lower than transistor radio, cell phone, wireless computer mouse or even a baby monitor. It should also be noted that, under normal operation, each AMI meter transmits for a total of less than one second per 24-hour period. Proper installation of AMI is important to ensure the meters work properly and safely. That’s why BELCO has chosen to use our own, well-trained staff to undertake the island-wide installations and have put into place a robust due diligence process to confirm proper installation and equipment quality. Any faulty equipment found when removing old meters will be replaced or repaired at BELCO’s expense.
How does BELCO benefit from AMI?
BELCO will receive more accurate, up to date information about every metered connection in its electricity system. This includes information on power quality, energy usage, outages and meter tampering. This will enable BELCO to operate the system more efficiently and reduce energy theft.
BELCO will be able to lower its operating costs through immediate power outage notifications, the ability to connect/disconnect customers remotely and quicker restoration
Who will install the new advanced meters?
BELCO employees will install the meters, replacing your old analogue or digital meter with the new AMI device. We have chosen to keep the work in-house in the interest of quality control and safety.
How will I know when my meter is being changed?
You should have received a letter or email with this flyer advising the anticipated timeframe of your new advanced meter installation. Installations will be undertaken during the normal work week, unless there is a reason why it must be performed outside of regular hours. You do not need to be at home when the work is done unless BELCO does not have access to your meter. A leaflet will be left after an installer visits your premise indicating the status of the job. As meters are the property of BELCO, you will not be charged for the meters or the installation work.
Will the AMI system give BELCO access to my home computer system and personal information?
The AMI system transmits information between the meter and BELCO on a secure radio network. AMI does not show which appliances you are using and is not connected to your internet or home computer.
Is BELCO making any other improvements to the electricity system?
In conjunction with AMI, BELCO has implemented a new Outage Management System (OMS) to provide more accurate information to our customers and the Community about outages and restoration times. The AMI meters are integrated with the OMS and report outages automatically. In addition, BELCO will be making major investments in its transmission and distribution system that will facilitate Bermuda’s energy future.