Funds from Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) rate reduction bond should be able to fix the critical issues with the company’s transmission and distribution (T&D) network, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie said yesterday.
His comments came after repeated outages across New Providence due to technical issues and line faults.
“We do have some challenges in our T&D network,” he said during a tour of Station A at BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Station.
“One of the things that the bond proceeds is going to do is help us to be able to get the funding that we need to start working on all of our substations and our T&D networks, so that we can start to remove some of the legacy issues in our T&D network.”
He added, “It won’t be enough to solve all the issues. It certainly starts to help us as we try to resolve some of the more critical issues in our T&D network.
“We do have to build a new substation to be able to export the power to bring more reliability to our customers. We do need to put in an additional transmission grid network system. All of that is part of the rate reduction bond. So the rate reduction funds is really to take care of the more pressing issues right now.”
The Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, which was debated and passed in the House of Assembly last month, will establish a legislative framework for BPL to raise $650 million through a rate reduction bond.
According to Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, $321.1 million of the funds raised will be used to refinance BPL’s debt, $28 million for solar installations on the Family Islands, $15 million to convert Family Island generation facilities to liquefied natural gas, $15 million for fiberglass cooling pipe replacement, $30 million for an advanced metering infrastructure project and $6 million for system reinforcement and customer connections.
He also said that $48.1 million will be used for 132-kilovolt transmission and substation upgrades, $34.9 million for line upgrades and extensions, $24.7 million for other substation upgrades and $14.3 million for 34.5-kilovolt line upgrades.
Heastie said fixing the T&D network is particularly challenging due to exposure to the elements.
However, he said he expects things to improve quickly now that there is more generation capacity at Clifton, with the installation of seven new Wartsila engines.
“The challenge with T&D networks is not like generating plants,” he said.
“T&D networks are outdoors and they’re exposed. And so we really want to make sure that as we work this, we make sure to try and improve our system.
“So in our T&D network, what we’re doing is we’re really starting from ground zero. We’re looking at actually going back to basics on protection and co-ordination of our systems. We’re looking at substations, making sure the switchgear in our substations is going through the proper maintenance.
“One of the challenges we had is because Blue Hill has been the primary servicing of generation, we could not take switchgear out of service to do proper maintenance.
“What Clifton Pier has allowed us to do now is to be able to take equipment out of service at Blue Hills and provide the proper maintenance on that equipment. It gives us the flexibility that we need to be able to service this equipment. And so once we can do that, the public will start to see improvements in the T&D network.”
BPL consumers on New Providence faced months of load shedding exercises this year, raising frustration among the public. With the installation of its new 132-megawatt Wartsila plant, the outages were expected to stop.
However, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard has repeatedly warned that power outages are likely to continue until BPL’s T&D system is upgraded.