In the wake of Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) proposed rate reduction bond, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) yesterday announced the approval of BPL’s Consumer Protection Plan (CPP), which covers standards BPL will be held accountable for regarding rates and billings, new connections, the management of consumer complaints, billing concerns and dispute resolution.
In the 30-page plan, BPL notes that it may make application to URCA for a rate adjustment where it is necessary to recover the cost of necessary system upgrades or reinforcements due to unforeseen circumstances, or circumstances that will otherwise improve operational efficiencies, which may reduce cost.
As for rate affordability, the CPP states, “As BPL is not a profit-driven organization, rate of return is not considered a component of the electricity rate. One objective of the components of the electricity rate is to place BPL on a solid financial footing, while enabling it to properly service its consumers. BPL wishes to ensure that all consumers have access to electricity, regardless of their financial circumstances and has purposely priced the cost of the first tier of electricity units at a discounted level.”
The document also outlines BPL’s plan to address the ability of consumers to lodge complaints, with plans to “shortly establish a single call center which will accept all calls to the company from its consumers in any of its jurisdictions”.
“A consumer’s service can be affected in a number of different ways for several reasons. In every case, when there is something out of the ordinary, the consumer should call the emergency line for the island location where the problem is being experienced,” the CPP notes.
“It is important that these emergency lines be kept clear so that we can be notified of emergencies. Therefore, emergency lines should only be used for problems with the electricity supply and should not be used for billing complaints, disconnections due to non-payment or for any other reason.”
In 2019, BPL has been plagued with frequent load shedding since the first quarter of the year.
Earlier this month, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister tabled the Rate Reduction Bond Bill in the House of Assembly, which seeks to help BPL refinance its legacy debt by adding a charge to every customer’s bill.
The announcement has stirred ire among the business community and residents who feel the cost of electricity is already high in The Bahamas.
The process to approve BPL’s CPP began in 2017, according to URCA.
“Following the consultation process, BPL was advised of changes needed to be made to the CPP. The changes were based on comments received during the consultation process as well as industry best practice. Following several requests for the amended CPP, the revised document was submitted to URCA on August 29, 2019,” a press release from URCA stated.
“URCA is now satisfied that the revised CPP has taken into consideration and incorporated all of URCA’s requests and recommendations. In accordance with its license, BPL is now required to implement the CPP; monitor its performance against such key performance indicators as set out in its license or in any regulatory measures issued by URCA. Additionally, BPL shall publish the CPP on its website and notify its consumers within thirty calendar days of the approval and ensure easy access by customers.”