Monday, Jul 22, 2019
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BPL challenges reminder of need for new plant

During the summer months in The Bahamas the electricity goes on and off. The state power company, now called Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), can’t keep the lights on. BPL needs new generation equipment.

Its Clifton Pier plant had serious problems the past few days. Firefighters rushed there yesterday morning for the third time in four days.

Superintendent Walter Evans, officer in charge of Fire Services, said investigators were still determining the cause of the three fires, but arson was not suspected. He advised that a team will be assigned to monitor the facility in intervals.

The first fire erupted around 10:30 p.m. on Friday night. Firefighters responded to a second fire on Sunday around 10 p.m.

Following the first blaze BPL CEO Whitney Heastie acknowledged during a press conference on Saturday that BPL would be challenged this week and load shedding would be necessary until the power company had adequate capacity.

The fire, at one of the power plant’s major diesel engine decks, reportedly began on Friday night when a technician attempted to make an adjustment while bringing online a generator that was out of service.

The fire spread from the engine deck to the basement and throughout the station.

That generator was reportedly destroyed.

The fire led to a prolonged blackout in western New Providence that lasted until around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Later that day, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard described the situation as a “crisis”.

The latest problem at Clifton is another reminder that the deal with Shell North America to construct a new natural gas plant in New Providence needs to be finalized as soon as possible. We need the plant built and brought online. Natural gas is a much cleaner option as an addition to our energy mix than the bunker C fuel we rely on.

Progress comes in small steps. We will get to renewables in time, but for now we should move forward with what is on the table as an improved energy source.

As the new BPL board met on August 27, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister told the new members to act quickly on the decision made by Cabinet.

“That is a Cabinet decision,” Bannister advised of the Shell choice.

“Your job now is to seek as quickly as possible to enter a memorandum of understanding with Shell.”

The government has changed management at BPL. It has offered packages to right size the company. It is working to restructure its debt. This plant must come. It’s a major part of the reform effort.

We waited too long as a country to make major structural changes at BPL. Those are happening now. We hope a cheaper and more reliable product comes out of it.

The Bahamas would grow and become more prosperous if we were to have a BPL we could rely on.

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