After days of repeated power outages across New Providence, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey said yesterday that while incoming rental generators will provide some relief, load-shedding could continue well into the fall.
“In order to address the generation issues that troubled us this weekend, we would like to report that relief is expected in short order,” Moxey said during a press conference at BPL’s headquarters on Blue Hill Road.
“This is in the form of rental units from Aggreko, the first bank of which we expect to be installed by Wednesday of this week, with the second bank of Aggreko generation due to be installed by the weekend.
“These rental generation assets will relieve the pressure on our system immediately, and together with machines that are being prepared and brought back into service, will give us some breathing room as far as the load is concerned.
“It must be said, however, that even with these new generators, the possibility of load-shedding remains until we have completed the new 132-megawatt power plant under construction at Station A of our Clifton Pier Power Station.
“As some of you would have seen last night, we have moved six of the seven new Wartsila engines into the engine hall at Clifton Pier. We expect to move the last of them on Wednesday (tomorrow).”
Moxey said there “remains months of work to be done in order to get those engines pumping power to the grid”.
“At this point, we anticipate that the new power plant will be up and running by early fall 2019,” he said.
In May, BPL signed a contract with Finnish technology group Wartsila to install a 132-megawatt engine power plant at the Clifton Pier site that will cost approximately $95 million.
Moxey also apologized for the “gross inconvenience” and for the “unacceptable power conditions” Bahamians experienced over the weekend.
“Let us be clear, what occurred over the weekend was an anomaly,” Moxey said.
“While our company has a history of difficulty dealing with the summer months, the experience of the past weekend was out of the ordinary, and we are here to explain how and why. Our commitment to minimizing the need to load-shed remains unchanged, and our motivation to do so is even more pronounced in the wake of this unexpected and difficult weekend.”
Many BPL consumers across New Providence complained over the weekend of repeated outages, some lasting hours at a time, during what the corporation initially said was a planned load-shedding exercise.
Questioned about whether residents or businesses will see a reduction in bills to compensate for the inconveniences created, Moxey said everyone will be billed for the electricity they consume.
He also noted that while some businesses suffered greatly and could not operate as a result of the outages, BPL could only apologize and warn them to expect more outages so that they can prepare.
Several months ago, Moxey said he did not expect load-shedding to be necessary this summer.
Asked about that statement, he responded, “We don’t ever go into a year of planning saying that…we are going to have load-shedding. We will never attempt that…because our whole push on this is positive.
“So what we did earlier this year is we looked at our maintenance schedule, and we did the best job that we could, given the assets available, to conduct the maintenance.”
He noted that the rental units from Aggreko were originally set to be installed by June 18, but the installation was delayed due to rain.
“We want to, as a power company, make sure the power is on 24/7,” he said.
“Load-shedding activities, especially in an island configuration, are things that you have to recognize will happen.
“So we do our best to plan for them, but our intention is to have the power on 24/7, 365 for our customers at all times.
“And when we do run into issues where load-shedding is required, then we do that in order to protect the network so that we can restore power to full capacity as soon as we possibly can.”
The chairman also addressed complaints that some areas experienced significantly more power outages than others in what was initially said to be a planned load-shedding exercise.
He explained that some areas are automatically shut off when there is a sudden loss of generation. Asked what those areas are, he said that BPL rotates them every few months, but did not list any specific areas that were affected over the weekend.
Several people have complained about damaged appliances due to power surges. The process for replacing or repairing appliances damaged by BPL has historically been known as a difficult one.
When asked about this, BPL Acting Chief Operating Officer Ian Pratt said that the most frustrating part of the process is necessary, and thus cannot be changed.
Pratt said in order for BPL to actually process a claim, it has to have some indication of what happened to the equipment.
“So, one of the requirements is to have an appliance repair technician look at the equipment in order to determine whether or not it can be repaired,” Pratt said.
He added, “There is a lot of concern sometimes from customers about having to go out and find an appliance repair technician company that can provide those services, but it is a necessary part of the process.”
Moxey said his hope is that in a few years’ time, nobody will have to think about BPL because electricity supply will be consistent.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish