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(Trinidad Guardian) Petrotrin President Fitzroy Harewood admits that the state-owned company is too reactive when it comes to safety saying it would cost approximately $16 billion over the next four years to repair Petrotrin’s aging infrastructure.

He also revealed that two of the seven tanks that were deemed high risk, are currently being repaired.

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Energy Chamber of T&T held at Cara Suites hotel in Claxton Bay yesterday, Harewood said Petrotrin planned to implement a company-wide asset integrity programme which may cost Petrotrin billions of dollars.

The company came under fire after Tank 70, deemed high risk since 2003, ruptured on April 28, spilling high density crude in the Gulf of Paria. The oil, which reached the east coast of Venezuela has already killed thousands of fish, as well as sea turtles and birds.

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There will be no increase of fuel prices, says Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

 

Imbert was speaking at the 2017 mid-year budget review in Parliament on Wednesday in Port of Spain.

 

He said that contrary to the rumours being spread that there was going to be an increase, this is not the case.

 

“With respect to fuel prices we made it clear that in light manner to our Caribbean neighbours we intend over a three year period between 2015 and 2018 to remove the subsidy on gasoline and diesel so that the price of fuel will rise and fall in accordance with changes in the world oil prices and the ex-refinery price in petroleum products.

 

This requires the proper design and application of an appropriate pricing formula which is being worked on at this time.

There will thus be no increases in fuel prices in this mid-year review,” he said.

 

Imbert also said that there will be no “drastic and sudden” depreciation of the currency.

 

With respect to the exchange rate,  he said Government will work in closely with the Central Bank to ensure, “there is an orderly and stable exchange rate regime based on foreign exchange inflow and the demand for foreign exchange with a suitable focus on the fast facilitation of exports. There will be no drastic and sudden depreciation of the currency. ”

 

He said that the Government is encouraging local companies to become net earners of foreign exchange and/or to reduce our import bill.

 

 

“We have requested the Central Bank to give priority to manufacturing and trade whenever it intervenes in the disbursement of foreign exchange to the commercial banks. This measure took effect just one week ago,” said Imbert.

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- On May 5, Grenada Private Power Limited (GPP), a 50 percent shareholder of Grenada Electricity Services Ltd (Grenlec), along with GPP’s parent company WRB Enterprises Inc. (WRB), filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

 

The purpose of this arbitration is to enforce the government of Grenada’s contractual obligation to repurchase the 50 percent Grenlec shareholding that the government previously sold to GPP. 

 

GPP submitted a formal share repurchase demand to the government on March 22, 2017, pursuant to the share purchase agreement (SPA) that the government, GPP and WRB entered into when the government’s privatised Grenlec in 1994. 

 

The SPA requires this repurchase to be completed within 30 days following the repurchase demand. Given that government has not made the mandated repurchase payment, GPP and WRB said they have no alternative means for protecting their contract rights other than by pursuing the ICSID arbitration as dictated by the SPA. 

 

“During the past three years, Grenlec, GPP and WRB have made every possible effort to initiate good-faith, collaborative negotiations with government focused on facilitating responsible and effective electricity sector reform in Grenada, and thereby avoiding the necessity of our taking legal action to protect our contractual rights,” said Robert Blanchard, chairman and managing director of GPP, and president of WRB Enterprises. “Unfortunately, the government has consistently elected to rebuff these efforts by the Grenlec team, opting instead to pursue a unilateral approach for restructuring every aspect of how Grenlec’s system should be owned, operated and regulated.”

 

These unilateral actions led to the government’s enactment of the Electricity Supply Act 2016 and the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission Act 2016, which took effect on August 1, 2016. 

 

“These two Acts cause substantial adverse operational and economic consequences for Grenlec, including (although by no means limited to) government’s effective abrogation of the Grenlec licence that the SPA parties committed to establish as the central aspect of Grenlec’s privatisation in 1994. This unilateral and injurious course of conduct has left GPP and WRB with no choice but to enforce their contractual repurchase rights in the manner dictated by the SPA,” GPP said in a statement.

 

In accordance with the specific repurchase valuation requirements, the demand for GPP’s 50 percent ownership interest in Grenlec amounts to EC$176.65 million (US$65.42 million).

 

“We want to stress again that our decision to file an ICSID claim was not driven by GPP’s and WRB’s desire to exit Grenada. We always have been, and remain, dedicated to assuring that Grenlec operates a world-class utility system that provides reliable and efficient electricity service to the nation. However, the government’s unilaterally-dictated course of action, implemented at odds with our agreed-upon and binding contractual arrangements, has left us with no other effective option,” Blanchard said. “If, on the other hand, the government demonstrates in a tangible and meaningful manner that it now wishes to engage in comprehensive and truly collaborative negotiations with the Grenlec team, we remain willing to participate in those talks in an effort to best serve the interests of our customers, shareholders, employees, and people of Grenada.”

 

In a statement on Tuesday, the government of Grenada said it was concerned and surprised at the arbitration filing.

 

“The government of Grenada has always maintained its willingness and openness to engage in discussions with GPP/WRB, and have specifically requested of WRB a meeting to hold discussions on said matter, to which their response was encouraging, and pending a mutually convenient date to hold the same,” the statement read.

 

According to the government, it wishes to see WRB remain engaged in Grenada's electricity market; albeit in a more competitive environment. Under the reformed sector, GPP/WRB will maintain its profitability, as lower rates result in increased sales and high economic activities.

 

The government denied it has any interest in managing a utility company or that it has “hand-picked any investors to replace GPP/WRB”.

 

The Grenada government also claimed in its statement that it is “pro-business, pro-privatization and pro-international investment. This administration has done more than any other to welcome international investors.”

 

However, this claim is belied by the government’s own recent actions that, rather than working to attract foreign investment, are actively discouraging such investment.

 

Not only have the government’s unilateral actions caused serious operational impairments and economic injury to Grenlec and its private sector investors, for some months the government has been seeking unilaterally to terminate a 99-year lease, which was signed in 1991, and thus effectively expropriate property occupied by the Grenadian by Rex Resorts hotel, which is leased and operated by a UK-based company.

 

Earlier this year a court in Grenada temporarily blocked the government’s plan to seize land occupied by the Grenadian, a 172-room hotel located on the island's southern tip.

 

 

The circumstances surrounding the government’s attempt to enforce a compulsory purchase order in respect of the Rex Resorts property have raised a number of questions locally concerning possible ulterior motives on the part of the government.

Electric car maker Tesla has added another product to its line-up: Solar roof tiles.

As of Wednesday, customers worldwide could order a solar roof on Tesla's website. Installations will begin next month in the United States, starting with California. Installations outside the US will begin next year, the company said.

 

The glass tiles were unveiled by Tesla last fall just before the company merged with solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. They're designed to look like a traditional roof, with options that replicate slate or terracotta tiles. The solar tiles contain photovoltaic cells that are invisible from the street.

 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said one of the drawbacks to home solar installations has been the solar panels themselves: They're often awkward, shiny and ugly. Buyers will want Tesla's roof, he said, because it looks as good or better than a normal roof.

 

"When you have this installed on your house, you'll have the best roof in the neighbourhood. The aesthetics are that good," Musk said in a conference call with media.

The roof is guaranteed for the life of the home, which is longer than the 20-year lifespan for a typical, non-solar roof, Musk said. It has gone through the same hail, fire and wind testing that normal roofs endure.

 

Tesla's website includes a calculator where potential buyers can estimate the cost of a solar roof based on the size of their home, the amount of sunlight their neighbourhood receives and federal tax credits. They can also put down a refundable US$1,000 deposit to reserve a place in line.

 

Tesla said the solar tiles cost US$42 per square foot to install, making them far more costly than slate, which costs around US$17 per square foot, or asphalt, which costs around US$5. But homes would only need between 30 and 40 per cent of their roof tiles to be solar; the rest would be Tesla's cheaper non-solar tiles which would blend in with the solar ones.

 

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It would cost US$69,100 to install a solar roof with 40-percent solar tiles on a 2,600-square-foot roof in suburban Detroit, according to Tesla's website. That includes a US$7,000 Tesla Powerwall, a battery unit that stores the energy from the solar panels and powers the home. The roof would be eligible for a US$15,500 federal tax credit and would generate an estimated US$62,100 in electricity over 30 years. Over that time period, Tesla estimates, the homeowner would save US$8,500.

 

Tesla said the typical homeowner can expect to pay US$21.85 per square foot for a Tesla solar roof. The cost can be rolled into the homeowner's mortgage payments and paid for over time, the company said.

 

Musk wouldn't say how many orders the company expects to get this year. He expects the initial ramp-up to be slow.

 

"It will be very difficult and it will take a long time, and there will be some stumbles along the way. But it's the only sensible vision of the future," Musk said.

Palo Alto, California-based Tesla Inc is making the solar tiles at its Fremont, California, factory initially. But eventually all production will move to a joint Tesla and Panasonic Corp factory in Buffalo, New York. Panasonic makes the photo-voltaic cells used in the solar tiles.

 

Tesla said it will be installing equipment in the Buffalo factory over the next few months.

 

 

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The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) yesterday ordered that SM Jaleel & Co Ltd (SMJ) and Guyana Beverages Inc. (GBI) be repaid monies collected in unlawful environmental taxes imposed by the Republic of Guyana. The Court however limited their claim to taxes collected within 5 years of the claim, from 2011 to 2015. The companies’ claim was filed in the Court’s original jurisdiction which deals exclusively with cases concerning the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) which governs the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

SM Jaleel & Co (“SMJ”), a Trinidad and Tobago-based company which manufactures and sells beverages, is the sole owner of Guyana Beverages Inc., a Guyanese company which sells and distributes SMJ’s beverages imported into Guyana. The companies approached the Court for a declaration that Guyana’s environmental tax of G$10 per beverage container violated the provisions of the RTC as Guyanese companies were not eligible to pay this tax. The companies applied for an order for reimbursement of US$11 million in taxes paid from January 1, 2006 to August 7, 2015. Guyana, in its defence, argued that the companies had incorporated the tax into the price of their beverages and passed on the tax to their customers. On that basis, Guyana further argued that reimbursement of the tax collected would result in the unjust enrichment of the companies. Guyana also argued that the companies should receive no reimbursement as they had deyayed too long before making their claim.

The CCJ noted that this case was similar in circumstances to the previous case of Rudisa Beverages & Juices N.V. and Caribbean International Distributors Inc. v The State of Guyana successfully claimed reimbursement of the unlawful environmental tax and Guyana made amendments to the Customs Act to cease the collection of the tax. Given the similarity of the circumstances, the companies would have been entitled to reimbursement of the unlawfully imposed environmental tax. 

The CCJ also held that the companies were not unjustly enriched at the expense of its customers as customer were to free to determine whether they would purchase the product, taking account of its quality and other competing products in the market place.

In the present case the Court reiterated that the tax did not promote cross-border investment provided for by the Treaty but, “tended to frustrate free movement of goods, distorted competition and discriminated against the Claimants who should have been protected as belonging to the Community.” Therefore, Guyana had no basis for retaining the unlawfully collected tax and was unjustly enriched at the companies’ expense.

In examining whether the companies’ claim was barred by the passage of time, the CCJ agreed that a cutoff period was needed in keeping with the overarching principle of good faith recognized by the RTC. The Court looked at the various limitation periods across the region which ranged from 3 to 6 years and held that a period of 5 years was appropriate.

The CCJ gave judgment for SM Jaleel & Co Ltd (SMJ) and Guyana Beverages Inc. and the government of Guyana was ordered to reimburse the tax it collected between the period March 7, 2011 to August 7, 2015. The judgment would carry interest at 4% per annum from the date of delivery. Guyana was also ordered to pay 70% of the legal costs incurred by the companies.

The judgment of the Court and an Executive Summary are available on the CCJ’s website at www.ccj.org

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