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BPL: Prepaid metering several years away

Whitney Heastie.

The ‘backbone’ of prepaid smart meters for electricity will come in October, according to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) CEO Whitney Heastie.

“Evaluation bids have been received from the bid process,” the BPL CEO revealed on Thursday.

“We are in the evaluation stage of that bid process right now.

“As soon as the winning bidder is made known, we are going to start moving.

“We are going to start building the backbone of the system, which is the more critical piece before you can actually put in the actual meters – around the October timeframe.”

Heastie was unable to recall off hand how many bidders are involved in the RFP.

He explained that the backbone of the smart metering system involves installing fiber optics.

To communicate with the power provider, most smart meters use GSM.

In BPL’s case, Heastie said the power company will likely use the country’s cellular network.

“We would have collectors out there that they system would be primarily routed back to home base, and then there would be 4G technology that talks to the collectors,” he said.

Asked about the timeframe for full installation, Heastie said several years.

“It takes several years because you want to do a pilot first, iron out the kinks” he said.

“Once you have ironed out all the kinks, then you can sort of stage deploy, depending on whether or not you have [install across] the islands of The Bahamas or you start in New Providence.

“We have got to strategize based on the RFPs, in response to the RFPs because everyone may approach it differently. The full cost of the project remains unknown, but BPL Chairperson Darnell Osborne estimated it will range in the tens of millions of dollars.

Smart metering was first mentioned in April.

At the time, BPL Deputy Chairman Patrick Rollins advised that over the next 18 months, BPL will seek to reduce its staff complement as it brings on stream certain automated services and new technology, including the smart meter system.

BPL made the case that it was overstaffed and needed to rightsize.

The power company subsequently announced voluntary separation package offerings.

More than 300 employees applied and were approved, the first batch of which left BPL yesterday.

BPL said it has no plans for another VSEP in the near future.

More than 1,000 people are employed at BPL.

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