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BPL fuel charge drops for first time in months

The Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) fuel surcharge for the March billing period dropped below 19 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

It’s the first time the fuel charge dropped in more than six months.

During the March billing period, the fuel charge was 17.82 cents per kWh.

The fuel charge for April is 17.77 cents per kWh, marking a further drop; though not all BPL customers had received bills for that period up to yesterday.

The fuel charge had been capped at 19.15 cents per kWh since the August 2018 billing period.

BPL yesterday declined to comment on the drop in the fuel charge, claiming it’s beyond the utility’s control, despite the power provider having locked the charge for months.

BPL Chairman Donovan Moxey said in February that the charge had been capped at a rate of 19.15 cents per kWh following extensive damage at the Clifton Pier power plant as a result of several fires last year.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) mandates that all fuel costs be passed directly onto the consumer, but that charge was capped last year to “soften the blow” for Bahamians, Moxey said.

BPL said the increase in the fuel surcharge was due to the resulting increased usage of its Blue Hills power plant, which produces power from turbines that use higher-priced diesel fuel.

The utility company also listed the increase in global oil price as a reason for the increase.

At the time, Moxey said it was unclear when the rate could be reduced.

Despite falling fuel prices at the time, he explained that the corporation had to maintain the rate of 19.15 cents per kWh so that it could pass on the additional fuel costs it had incurred as a result of the capped rate.

Asked yesterday whether the latest drop from the capped charge indicates that those costs have been fully recovered, BPL Public Relations Director Quincy Parker confirmed.

BPL has 93,424 residential customers in the country.

The fuel charge typically makes up the majority of electricity costs for the consumer.

The fuel charge steadily increased in 2018, which contributed to a 45 percent increase in the average residential light bill in The Bahamas between October 2017 and October 2018, according to data provided by the corporation.

In 2018, during the February billing period the fuel charge was 14.75 cents per 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 billing period it was 19.15 cents per kWh, where it remained until the March 2019 billing period.

Rachel Knowles

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish