Monday, Jul 22, 2019
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BPL is a disgrace

This summer, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) has solidified itself as a national disgrace.

New Providence was hit yesterday with an island-wide power outage following days of intolerable load shedding.

While rental generation units are on the island, they are not pushing power to the grid.

“Those generators are still in the process of being commissioned,” a BPL official said yesterday. “They will be up and running soon, but I cannot give you a specific time frame yet for that.”

It’s been two weeks and Bahamians are having the same conversation: why are the lights going off?

Officials at BPL knew that peak summer demand would exceed the company’s generation capacity. Why then are the rental units not supplying power to the grid in July?

It is unacceptable and an insult to the thousands of Bahamians who are now forced to suffer.

If you pay your light bill on time you expect a certain level of service.

Yet, many Bahamians are forced to toil all day at work and retreat home to a dark and sweltering home. For some that means no water, and in the case of an electric stove, no dinner.

The Minnis administration does not appear to be taking this issue seriously either.

If it was, one would expect an immediate pronouncement from the government and the minister responsible about the way forward.

Instead, the public has been met with more silence. BPL held a press conference last week to placate Bahamians.

There were apologies and promises. Bahamians are sick of both. They want action.

When the lights go out, misery ensues. When the lights go out, the traffic lights go out. When the lights go out, businesses suffer.

A Nassau Guardian reporter attempted to speak with BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey yesterday about the outage. Moxey told her to call BPL’s CEO, Whitney Heastie.

Heastie never answered his phone.

BPL Director of Public Relations Quincy Parker, a former editor at The Nassau Guardian, sought to answer many of these questions.

But those answers only begged for more questions.

Several business owners told The Guardian yesterday that they lost customers due to the island-wide outage.

The owners of Fusion Superplex told the paper last week that the company lost $32,000 in one night, because of load shedding.

Dawn Sands, owner of NRG, a smoothie cafe on West Bay Street, said the power outages have been difficult for her business to cope with.

“This is affecting my business tremendously,” she told The Guardian’s Rachel Knowles yesterday.

“When the lights are out, we have no ability to serve our customers.

“So, every person that walks in here, we’re losing an average of $20 per person.

“While the lights were off just now we lost $60.

“Three persons came in within less than 30 minutes.

“…So, every time this happens we lose about $20 per person.”

BPL has said the installation of its new 132-megawatt plant at Clifton would solve the issue of load shedding once and for all.

“This will be our last summer of any kind of issues,” BPL Executive Director Patrick Rollins said in April.

He was referring to the new Wartsila generators that will make up the plant.

His comments came two weeks after Moxey said BPL did not expect any load shedding this summer.

Foolishness.

We will believe it when we see it.

In 2003, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) purchased a new generator – generator #12 – to be installed at its Clifton Pier Power Plant.

At the time, officials said the new generator would end load shedding. We wonder what happened.

More load shedding

As if the island-wide outage wasn’t bad enough, around 8 p.m. last night, BPL announced that it was “now load shedding”.

“Apologies for the inconvenience,” the company posted on its Facebook page.

The comments under the post were frank.

One user said that “this is heartless”.

Another user said it best: “BPL, I am sick of your empty apologies. Stick them where the sun don’t shine.”

Even when the temporary Aggreko generators come online, there are no promises that load shedding will end.

When the new Wartsila generator plant comes online, there is no guarantee that blackouts and load shedding would come to an end.

The fact is that BPL operates a decrepit plant with decrepit engines and decrepit ideas.

The Bahamas is a country blessed with sunshine. But sometimes I wonder if we are blessed with common sense.

Residents of New Providence will undoubtedly have to endure many more weeks of outages, excuses and silence from our leaders.

But we must demand more.

Our government has to, once and for all, prioritize a revolution in the transmission and distribution of electricity in The Bahamas.

Perhaps BEC/BPL should be privatized.

Anything would be better than the status quo.

Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister owes the Bahamian people an explanation.

The minister recently promoted the opening of a new park in his constituency.

He has been noticeably quiet about BPL. This is unacceptable.

The minister should take a moment and scroll through the angry comments from Bahamians on BPL’s social media. It’s acerbic, but it’s an honest account of the feelings of the people.

He should meet with his board and determine a way to fix this mess or else step aside and let someone else get the job done.

Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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