Rising electricity prices take their toll on town councils [News]
By Ong Dai Lin and Ng Jing Yng, Today, 21 Sep 2011.
Town councils around the island are feeling the heat of rising electricity prices: The Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council, for instance, has seen its utility bill balloon to S$8.2 million in the last financial year, an increase of almost 40 per cent over the last five years.
But, even as town councils brainstorm ways – with at least one seeking suggestions from residents – to manage growing bills, town council chairmen Today spoke to reassured that, at this point, there was no need to consider raising residents’ service and conservancy charges (S&CC).
Mr Michael Palmer, who chairs the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council, said the town council’s utility bill rose from S$15.76 million in FY2007/2008 to S$19.18 million in the last financial year.
Mr Palmer attributed the increase to higher electricity tariffs and the new HDB flats built in the constituency. Between FY2007/08 and the last financial year, the built-up area that the town council has had to manage has increased about 9 per cent, Mr Palmer noted.
The Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council has introduced energy saving measures such as “turning off non-essential lights after certain hours”, changing light fittings for greater efficiency and installing solar panels in Punggol.
“We continue to review and implement energy saving measures where possible,” said Mr Palmer.
In a message recently put up on the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council website, Member of Parliament Hri Kumar used his first message – which was titled “A Very Nasty Shock” – as town council chairman to share his concern on the rising utility expenditure.
Mr Kumar, who was appointed town council chairman after the May General Election, said the town council is thinking of ways to reduce its electricity consumption. For instance, it has implemented an alternative lighting system for several blocks, where every other corridor light is turned off after midnight. The town council also aims to change more than 80 per cent of the fluorescent lighting in the estate to LED by 2016.
He wrote: “I ask for your understanding and support for these changes. I also ask that you join us in this fight against rising costs by suggesting ways the town council can reduce its expenses and stretch your dollar.”
Mr Kumar noted that electricity costs account for around 22 per cent of residents’ S&CC and are expected to increase as more lifts are installed in the constituency.
Over at Ang Mo Kio, its town council chairman Lam Pin Min noted that the rising electricity cost “means that our financial surplus will reduce and hence we will have less financial resources for upgrading the estate”.
Dr Lam added: “We will also have to be very prudent in the spending for maintenance of the town.”
According to Ang Mo Kio Town Council, electricity costs account for about 30 per cent of its overall expenses. The town council’s utility bill was S$11.5 million in the last financial year, as compared to S$7.5 million in FY2004/2005.
The town council will be fitting LED lamps to more than 250 blocks in the estate. In areas which are not frequently used, the lamps will be fitted with motion sensors and the lights will be dimmed when there is no usage, Dr Lam said.
In April last year, the Jurong and Aljunied town councils raised the S&CC, citing rising electricity prices and maintenance costs.
The last time all 14 PAP town councils raised S&CC was in 2004. In 2008, they had decided against another hike, following the Government’s lead in freezing fees for its services because of high inflation.
Mr Palmer said he “does not foresee an increase in the S&CC at this time” for Pasir Ris-Punggol residents.
Dr Lily Neo, who chairs the Tanjong Pagar Town Council, added: “We are looking at ways to reduce energy consumption such as using LED lights … As for the need to increase S&CC charges, I haven’t gone to that stage yet.”
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