Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said that as many as 6,000 Bahamians are living without power.
“All of us are Bahamians who are concerned about the plight of our citizens,” Bannister said in the House of Assembly Wednesday.
“All of us. On a regular basis, anywhere from 4,500 to 6,000 Bahamians have no power.
“These are serious issues [that] all governments, oppositions, everybody, all of us, have to take seriously.
“I’ve looked at some figures of persons who have been disconnected for long periods of time. I have some in my constituency. I don’t know how they exist without power.”
His comments came amidst concerns over rising electricity bills.
Bannister noted that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis launched an initiative earlier this year that allowed Bahamians to pay 25 percent of their outstanding bill and pay the balance over a period of time.
“One of the things BPL (Bahamas Power and Light) found is that after a few months, it went back to normal,” he said.
“So, people benefited from it, but then a lot of people took it for granted, businesses also.
“So, we have to find very real means of dealing with these issues.”
Although the price of oil dropped this month, Bannister said the current electricity bills that Bahamians are receiving reflect prices for oil purchased three months ago.
He was responding to Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin who raised concern in the House over the increase in electricity bills.
“In the last month, the price of oil has gone down,” Bannister said.
“Since October 31, the price of oil has gone down. So, Englerston is correct that during the month of November, the price of oil has gone down.
“During the month of November, the price of oil has gone down. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the bills that we are getting now reflect oil bought three months ago.
“That’s what is important for her to appreciate. Let’s tell our people the truth. We are receiving bills now that reflect the price of oil three months ago. Diesel, at the time we were buying it, was $91 a barrel.
“HFO, heavy fuel oil, was $70 a barrel. Those are the realities that have to be told. Not a half truth.”
According to Bannister, the price of oil has increased almost every single month since June 2017.
The average residential light bill in The Bahamas increased by 45 percent between October 2017 and October 2018, according to data provided by BPL.
In September, there were three fires that impacted BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Plant, which caused damage to station C, which houses two of the largest generators at the plant.
The fires prompted BPL to load-shed throughout New Providence.
The damage sustained caused a spike in consumer bills as the electricity company continues to grapple with generation issues.
Bannister admitted that he won’t make any excuses for BPL.
“They have to do a better job,” he said.
“We all have to do a better job. Some of the conditions that I saw at Clifton when I came in, I spoke here about them.
“I spoke about trying to improve those conditions.
“Those conditions were…inherited by your government and you left them for me to deal with.
“We are going to try and deal with them.”
Bannister was referring to former Minister of Public Works Philip Brave Davis.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English