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Tensions ease after Caines meets Belco protesters

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It’s good to talk: Belco president Wayne Caines, centre, met with residents Lynn Millett, left, Sharon Riviere and Sean Smith during yesterday’s protest (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A confrontation between electricity supplier Belco and protesters angry at a recent fuel price hike was defused after the groups held informal talks.

About a dozen demonstrators gathered outside Belco’s headquarters on Serpentine Road for a second day of protests yesterday.

The protest was prompted by an increase in Belco’s Fuel Adjustment Rate, which will increase electricity bills by about 20 per cent from this month. The increase was approved by the Regulatory Authority but will be reviewed at the end of the year.

Despite the limited attendance on the second day of the Belco protest, those present effectively voiced their concerns when engaging in discussions with Belco president Wayne Caines (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

During the protest, Wayne Caines, the president of Belco, came out of the building and spoke to several participants.

He later told The Royal Gazette that the brief discussion had been “fruitful”.

He said: “We spoke on a range of topics relating to our operations and the impact of global events and increasing fuel costs that have increased the cost of providing energy to Bermuda.

In the face of reduced numbers on the second day of the Belco protest, those present remained steadfast, ensuring their messages reached the morning commuters. Pictured are Sean Smith and Sharon Riviere (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“I am thankful for the opportunity to connect with our valued customers and look forward to continuing dialogue and working together as a community to find solutions that will benefit all of Bermuda.”

That view was supported by at least some of the protesters.

Lynn Millett, a senior, said: “I welcome the fact that Mr Caines spoke to us. Conversation is the only way forward. It’s a conversation that all of the players have to have.

“Mr Caines said he was hopeful that all of the players involved — Belco, the Government, the Regulatory Authority, the private entities — everyone involved in producing electricity will have a conversation about shared sacrifice.

“I think he understands the burden that’s been put on the public. Some people can absorb the rate because they’re passing it on to the consumer but the most vulnerable are those on a low income, the unemployed and seniors.”

Asked if he was disappointed with this morning’s turnout, which was markedly down from Monday’s protest, Mr Millett said: “In terms of numbers, that wasn’t the real goal. The real goal is the message that we’re bringing to Belco and the public and we’re getting that across.

“Mr Caines and some of his administrators came out to speak to us so our message is being effective. We’re not playing the numbers game.”

Another protester said that she had a better understanding of Belco’s position after the talk and suggested that others involved in the electricity supply chain should shoulder some responsibility for the hike.

Sharon Riviere, who is also a member of the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, said: “Mr Caines talked about all the stakeholders involved and gave us a breakdown of the costs involved — the cost to the oil company, the city tax, the government tax.

“Mr Caines was able to break it down and explained all the different pieces that go towards producing electricity and the final cost.

“We need to talk to the oil people, we need to talk to the City, the transport from Shell to here — all of this is increasing the cost. Let us all share the burden. It’s a shared sacrifice.

“Maybe we need to take our anger to the Government. ‘Hey, a portion of this increase is in your tax’.

“I wouldn’t say I have more sympathy with Belco now but I certainly have a greater understanding. We can’t control the global price of oil, it’s as simple as that.

“Mr Caines stated that they’re not making a profit on this and that now makes sense.

“But because of the general economic situation in this country today, any kind of increase in something essential such as electricity is going to hurt. So many people are having a difficult time and there’s no question that they’re going to feel it.”

Last Friday, Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, ordered the Regulatory Authority to explain how it approved Belco’s request for the increase and questioned whether the organisation may have acted outside the law.

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Published October 12, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated October 12, 2023 at 7:57 am)

Tensions ease after Caines meets Belco protesters

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