In Brief

Sark in the dark: why island faces electricity shutdown

Pricing dispute between government and energy firm reaches boiling point

Sark Island.jpg

Sark may require military assistance to keep the lights on as the Channel Island’s only electricity provider threatens to cut them off by the end of the week.

The small Channel Island, home to around 500 people, is at the centre of a bitter pricing dispute between the island’s parliament, known as the Crown Pleas, and Sark Electricity.

The stand-off began this summer, when the island’s electricity price commissioner ordered Sark Electricity to slash its price per unit from 66p to 52p.

“The average price of electricity per kilowatt hour on the UK mainland is typically between 12p and 16p,” says The Times.

But although many islanders welcomed the move, Sark Electricity chief David Gordon-Brown says the change has resulted in unsustainable losses of around £20,000 a month.

The Crown Pleas has scheduled an emergency meeting this week to try to resolve the matter. But if the government refuses to lift the price cap, Sark Electricity says it will be forced to cut supplies to the island on Friday.

In a letter to Crown Dependencies minister Lord Keen, the Crown Pleas outlined plans to use stockpiled electricity generators to maintain supply.

However, their letter acknowledged that, in the event that the generators are unable to cope with the demand “we will need your assistance to identify suitable support in that extreme situation, perhaps from the military under Military Aid to the Civil Authorities”.

“This could include flying in mobile generators to provide electricity to the island,” the letter adds.

Sark’s residents are unusually well-prepared to go without power, the BBC reports.

Electricity has always been an “expensive commodity” on Sark, and “islanders have grown up switching off lights in empty rooms and only boiling the amount of water they need in a kettle”.

However, a blackout would leave Sark not only without lighting, but also without power to run the borehole pumps which supply the island’s drinking water.

Nevertheless, the island’s “Seigneur”, or leader, Major Christopher Beaumont dismissed Gordon Brown’s claims that residents would be forced to evacuate the island if the shutdown goes ahead.

Referring to the Nazi occupation of the island during the Second World War, he said: “I feel sure that where the Germans failed, so will he”.

Sark’s parliament, known as the Crown Pleas, has been put in the spotlight by Westminster lately.  

Lord Keen wrote to the Crown Pleas last month to express concern over governance issues including “the rejection of its 2019 Budget, subsequent resignation of the only civil servant, and failure to hold a contested election in the last six years”, the Jersey Evening Post reports.

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