Monday, Jul 15, 2019
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Embracing progress with patience

When the lights go out each summer in New Providence, it’s a frustrating time. Businesses that do not have generators close. Residents who can’t afford generators sweat it out in the darkness.

In prolonged outages – which are frequent – people go outside to escape the claustrophobic, sweltering conditions.

Many get in their cars and just drive. Some stop at beaches to catch the breeze.

If you’re getting ready for work, and the power is off, you may not be able to iron, showing up at your job disheveled. Trying to get kids ready for school is maddening.

In a modern society we should not have to live like this. But, sadly, these situations play out regularly during peak demand season.

The Minnis administration pledged a solution when they came to government. On Monday, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) announced it signed a contract with the Finnish group Wartsila to install a 132-megawatt power plant at Clifton Pier. It will cost approximately $95 million.

The engines, which are being manufactured in Trieste, Italy, are scheduled to leave there by the end of March and should take two months to arrive on island. Once here, installation is expected to take four months.

It is hoped the new plant would lead to more reliable electricity supply and lower fuel charges on customers’ bills.

BPL CEO Whitey Heastie said the deal will work with the wider understanding BPL is negotiating with Shell Gas and Power Development B.V. Ultimately, Shell is to lead an effort bringing 220 megawatts of energy to BPL, and a natural gas component.

This announcement should make New Providence residents hopeful. If all goes as planned we could have a more stable supply within a year. The key is for those involved to live up to their promises.

PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis, who was the minister responsible for BPL in the Christie administration, said on Tuesday his party has concerns regarding funding for the new plant, and when it will be finished.

Davis also told reporters the PLP wants BPL to respond to queries about the selection process for Wartsila.

When asked on Monday how BPL plans to pay for the project, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie said, “The money is actually coming from capital works that were deferred in favor of this new generation.”

BPL also said the project should be completed by the end of the summer.

We were surprised the leader of the opposition weighed in on this matter. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had five years between 2012 and 2017 to craft a way forward at the state energy supplier. It failed.

The Christie administration pursued a management deal with the U.S. firm PowerSecure that did not create meaningful change. Under the PLP, electricity bills remained high and BPL’s service was poor. Rolling blackouts were the norm when demand increased.

After the PLP’s loss on May 10, former Prime Minister Perry Christie alluded to them leaving on the table a transformative energy deal for the country. At that moment, Christie again reminded us of the problem of his tenure in office. He was the prime minister of “almosts”. He could not get things done. Davis was co-pilot to Christie.

The Minnis administration has put forward its plan. BPL and Wartsila have given a timeline. Let’s see what they can get done. If they can’t live up to what they promised, then they should be criticized. Right now we are just at the beginning of the doing phase.

The PLP that just left office, having not adequately addressed the BPL problem, is not the most credible entity to speak on matters related to the state energy supplier.

Since Christie and Davis did not get the job done, let’s see if Dr. Hubert Minnis can.

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