Business chamber expresses concern over power hike

The chamber that represents businesses has expressed its unhappiness with a decision to raise electrical rates again. The rates have doubled over the last five years for homes and businesses alike, said the Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado.

The nation’s regulating agency has approved increases for five electrical distributors, including the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz, the major electrical firm in the Central Valley. Also getting hikes were the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia and cooperatives in Guanacaste, Alfaro Ruiz and San Carlos.

The hikes range from 1.44 to 3.62 percent, said the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos. The increases were expected because in November the regulating agency authorized a 7 percent hike in generating rates for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. The distributing firms buy the power
from the state agency known as ICE.

The business chamber said it was very concerned by the constant increases in prices of electricity and in the methodology used by the regulating agency to apply the increases. The hikes are damaging the buying power of Costa Ricans, it said.

Jaime Molina, chamber president, suggested two alternatives. One is more reliance on renewable energy sources. These include wind and geothermal generating. He also suggested that a pending legal change would let private firms generate power at a competitive price. In fact, there have been some reports that private power may be as much as 30 percent the cost of power generated by ICE.

In addition, during the dry season, ICE is forced to use petroleum-fired generators but the petroleum has to be imported. President Laura Chinchilla opposes exploration for petroleum by a U.S. firm in the northern zone where there is potential for that and natural gas.

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