A rising burdenMany fear they won’t be able to keep the lights on
Anthony Miller, 57, a double amputee, has lived on Quakoo Street for five years.
He said this is the first time he has seen his electricity bill skyrocket the way it has recently.
He is worried.
Miller said his bill was $140 in March but doubled to nearly $300 in September.
Increased bills mean that consumers like Miller, who might have benefited from the value-added tax exemption on bills up to $200, now have to pay VAT on their bills, adding to their burdens.
Miller cannot work because of his disability and he is reliant on support from the government.
He said most people trivialize electricity but it determines whether he is healthy or sick.
“With me the light is very important because it helps me with my situation,” Miller said.
His left leg was amputated nearly three years ago after he stepped on a nail without realizing he was a diabetic. Miller’s right leg was amputated last month after a blood clot.
Miller said he would not be able to function without electricity because his body and his insulin require a cool environment.
“A hot house will work against me because with my injury I need my current on, at least to utilize my fan and my air condition,” he said.
He added: “Without electricity, the house is hot and uncomfortable, and it takes longer for the wound to heal.”
Miller said the cool air decreases the likelihood of his wound getting infected.
Referring to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey’s recent comments about even higher bills on the way, Miller said he can only put his trust in God, since “the man has come on saying that we have to deal with that into next year”.
Moxey said the significantly higher fuel charges on consumers’ bills is a result of the increase in global oil prices and the increased usage of the Blue Hills power plant, following fires that impacted two of the Clifton Pier power station’s largest engines in September.
“When we lost those assets at Clifton and we had to shift our load to Blue Hills, we ended up utilizing the more expensive fuel, and right now our fuel mixture is 70 percent automotive diesel oil (ADO), 30 percent heavy fuel oil (HFO),” Moxey said on Friday.
He noted that while BPL is working on securing additional assets to compensate for the loss of those engines, that might not happen until next summer.
But Troy Nixon, 47, a fiber artist, does not know if he can afford to wait that long.
Nixon said he uses electric tools to cut into coconut shells to make art pieces to sell.
At the rate his bill is going, he said he’s not sure he will be able to afford it.
“If the prices increase, then I can’t afford it,” Nixon said.
“If I can’t afford it, then they turn it off. If they turn it off, then I can’t make money to turn it back on. It’s like a circle. It’s going here, it’s going there, it’s going everywhere but going nowhere.”
He said BPL needs to find another way to make up for the loss of its engines at Clifton Pier.
Maria Evans, a resident of Bains and Grants Town, agrees with Nixon.
Evans said she already feels the strain with a high cost of living and the rising fuel surcharge on her BPL bill.
She said her bill jumped from $120 in February to $250 in September.
“People can’t afford it and a lot of lights are going to end up getting cut off,” Evans said.
“A lot of persons are only getting paid $210 or $220 a week, and they can’t afford [the BPL bills].”
The fuel surcharge typically makes up the majority of electricity costs for the consumer.
The fuel surcharge has steadily increased this year. 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 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 and September billing periods it was 19.15 cents per kwh.
Lionel Pinder, 66, a pensioner who has lived on Quakoo Street for over 40 years, said he only gets $300 from the government, which is not enough for the rising BPL bills.
He is fully blind in his left eye and can “only see slightly straight” through his right eye.
“I need the light because of my eyes. I’ve got glaucoma,” Pinder said.
“To get in and out of rooms, I’ve got to switch the light a little bit so I can see a slight blink then I’ll know what part of the house I’m going to.”
He said his bill was $110 in January and has nearly doubled since then.