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GBPC to increase power bills

The headquarters of Grand Bahama Power Company in Freeport, Grand Bahama. FILE

Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) customers will see an additional charge on their monthly bills effective April 1, as the company attempts to recoup $15 million in restoration costs associated with Hurricane Dorian.

The cost, being called the “Storm Recovery and Stabilization Charge”, will represent less than $7 for residential customers and less than $24 for business customers, according to a release from the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), which has oversight of the utility.

“For transparency, GBPC has been directed to identify the Storm Recovery and Stabilization Charge on customers’ bills as a separate line item,” the release stated.

“The charge, which comes into effect April 1, 2020, is as follows for each category of customer: residential – $0.013/kWh, commercial – $0.008/kWh and GSL (industrials) – $0.010/kWh.

“For the average residential customer, it will represent a less than $7 charge on their bills and for the average business customer, $24.

“This charge does not represent an impact to base rates, but is a full pass-through associated with Hurricane Dorian recovery and an insurance fund for future events.”

It added, “In 2013, when the new regulatory framework was executed, it included a mechanism for GBPC to recoup costs associated with natural disasters.

“The mechanism was originally scheduled to be in place in 2016 as a self-insurance fund. However, with the onset of Hurricane Matthew, GBPA, as the regulator, worked with GBPC to approve a five-year rate stabilization plan.”

The release noted that the five-year plan “allowed GBPC to recoup the $27.5m in Hurricane Matthew recovery charges”, but that as a result, the self-insurance fund plan was delayed until 2022.

“This, however, was contingent on the island not experiencing another catastrophic event within that five-year period,” it stated.

General Counsel at Port Group Limited Karla McIntosh highlighted that GBPC rates have not been increased since 2013, but noted that Dorian’s unprecedented impact has had a hefty cost.

“We have worked with the utility to ensure efficiency of operation, necessary capital investments and quality of service,” she said in the release.

“With regulatory oversight, this was achieved with no increase to rates since the establishment of the framework agreement in 2013.

“Unfortunately, Hurricane Dorian had a disastrous impact not only to life and property, but also substantially impacted Grand Bahama Power Company’s generating, transmission and distribution assets.

“The full cost of restoration associated with Hurricane Dorian is approximately $15 million.”

It added, “GBPA has ensured that there will be clear, transparent management and reporting of the fund.

“Legal mechanisms have also been put in place to ensure the integrity and protection of funds collected.”

Dorian, the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the region, tore through Abaco and Grand Bahama in early September, leaving ruin in its wake.

Several months later, some areas still have not had power restored.

Disaster Reconstruction Authority Managing Director Katherine Forbes-Smith said last week that, of about 19,000 GBPC customers, 18,000 had power restored.

However, she noted that East Grand Bahama posed a challenge, as that area experienced “quite a bit of the devastation”.

Parts of the island are still recovering from the monster storm, including the Grand Bahama International Airport, and potable water remains a challenge on the island.

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