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Abaconians fear another summer of power cuts

MARSH HARBOUR, Abaco–In the wake of two days of power cuts, Abaconians are putting pressure on the government to immediately make the required upgrade to the power transmission line from the Wilson City Power Plant to Marsh Harbour.

Yesterday several of them took to the streets in a small, peaceful demonstration in front of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s(BEC) administrative offices in Marsh Harbour in hopes of getting the government’s attention.

However, Marsh Harbour local government representative Yvonne Key said she was extremely disappointed with the turnout, especially after between 200 and 250 residents reportedly participated in a similar protest last summer.

<*L>Kye Mills, chairman of The Dundas Town Partnership, said despite the small numbers, they will not give up their fight.

“This isn’t just our problem. Everyone suffers when the lights are out and it’s a shame that they aren’t here to speak up for themselves. It’s so disappointing to see so little people here,”he added.

Residents said if new transmission lines arent installed by April, they are convinced they will experience another summer without power.

“We just can’t go through another summer like we went through last year. It would just devestate our economy which is already hurting because of the economic downturn. I have my doubts that they will be ready for the summer, and that will cripple our economy. We already have some visitors who have said they will not come here until we get this electricity situation sorted out,”said Jeremy Sweeting, chief councillor of Hope Town.

Last July site managers told Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham during a tour of the plant that the current power line is too small to handle the amount of power generated at the plant.

The capacity of the existing line is only 14 to 16 megawatts.

According to BEC officials, the power load during peak season–May, June and July–is around 20 to 22 megawatts.

Multi-business owner Gary Sawyer questioned how the government could allow BEC to make such a major oversight.

“I’m really puzzled why at this stage this wasn’t in the planning. You spend$100 million on a power plant, you put in four big, wonderful generators and nobody realized that the transmission lines couldn’t handle what you now have there?You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out,”he said.

In January, Environment Minister Earl Deveaux told Marsh Harbour residents during a town meeting that a tender document for the design and construction of the new transmission line was complete and the line would be in service by May 15.

However, just last Thursday, during another town meeting, BEC heads told residents the work would be done by the end of summer.

Abaco Chamber Of Commerce President Micheal Albury said while he does believe BEC will get the job done eventually, the upgrades need to be made now.

“We want to get it done, we want to get it started. Until some of these projects are started, Abaco’s confidence level will remain low. And we’re already in the early part of our season and we’re already behind the eight ball,”he said.

A BEC representative who was also in Marsh Harbour yesterday told us that despite popular belief the majority of Abaco’s power is coming from Wilson City 10 megawatts to be exact.

He confirmed that the line will not be upgraded before the peak period, but BEC plans to use power from both the Wilson City Plant and the Marsh Harbour power plant to meet the high summer demand.

The BEC official also revealed that contractors Man Diesel completed reliability testing yesterday afternoon, and the Wilson City Plant had now been officially turned over to the corporation.

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