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Chamber chairman laments rising BPL fuel surcharge

Currently stands at 19.15 cents per kilowatt hour
Mike Maura.

Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation Chairman Mike Maura has called the spike in Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) fuel surcharge, which now stands at 19.15 cents per kilowatt hour, crippling for Bahamian consumers and businesses in particular.

The fuel surcharge has steadily increased over the past several months. In the February billing period it was 14.75 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh); in the March cycle it was 14.9 cents per kwh; in April, the surcharge rose to 15.68 cents per kwh; in May, it jumped to 17.46 cents per kwh; in June, it was 17.38 cents per kwh; in July, the surcharge per kwh was 19.46 cents; and in the August billing period it was 19.15 cents per kwh.

“The cost of electricity from a business cost perspective is obviously depending on the business. But if you happen to be in the tourist sector and you happen to be operating a resort, and you have tens of thousands of square feet of open space that all has to be air conditioned, the impact of even a couple of pennies’ rise in your cost of energy is significant and can be crippling,” Maura said in an interview with Guardian Business.

“If you happen to be a business and you’re in the grocery business and you operate freezers as well as you need to air condition your big stores and all of the chilled products and so forth, a couple of points’ rise in the cost of energy is substantial and noticeable and impactful; not in a good way, but in a negative way on your bottom line.”

According to The Central Bank of The Bahamas’ (CBOB) Monthly Economic and Financial Developments (MEFD) report for July, although imported fuel costs declined for the month of July, they remained 35.9 percent higher than the previous year.

Maura said the spike in the fuel surcharge puts more pressure on the public and business community to push for energy reform.

“Based off the conversations I’ve had with leaders within the business community, as well as with just general residents that have to pay the BPL bill every month, they’ve seen a material rise in the cost of electricity. And often they’re not as concerned with the cause of the particular increase, but more concerned with the financial impact it has on them personally or their business,” he said.

“In the case with what we’ve seen with oil prices climbing from the high 40s to low 50s per barrel a few months ago to around $75 or $80 per barrel, there you’ve seen a 50 percent increase in the price of fuel. There is a justification for the increase in fuel, but I think what’s compounding it is that the public and the business community had hoped that we would have seen some material improvement in our electrical supply as well as a reduction in the cost of energy by now.”

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