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BPL to soon address fuel charge issue

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) will soon make an announcement relating to its fuel charge, minister with responsibility for the utility, Alfred Sears, said yesterday, but declined to confirm whether that announcement will be that the charge is being increased.

Asked whether reports that the cost is being raised are accurate, Sears said, “I won’t confirm at this point, but a statement will be made in a very short period of time.”

When The Nassau Guardian indicated that his lack of confirmation sounded like a confirmation when one reads between the lines, the minister added, “Well, I can’t confirm it, but I will tell you that we are living in a global supply chain and we’re seeing every country within the world, including those who produce fuel as they reposition themselves to incorporate more renewables, that the issue of energy is one that is impacting all of us and The Bahamas is no exception.”

Sears was also asked how burdensome it has been for BPL to absorb high fuel costs.

He repeated, “All of those issues will be addressed publicly in very short order.”

In February, BPL issued a statement announcing that customers’ fuel charges will increase from 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) to 13.7 cents per kWh.

It said customers whose average monthly consumption is 250 kWh will see a rise of about $8 in their monthly light bill and customers whose consumption is 600 kWh will see an increase of about $19 per month.

The statement was later recalled and Prime Minister Philip Davis promised that his administration would address the issue.

“Lord knows that our people could least afford to have more taxes or more costs visited upon their backs,” said Davis, who was out of the country at the time.

“My government will do all in its power to see how we can avert raising the cost of electricity on our people.

“As soon as I am back to The Bahamas, we will be sitting down to brainstorm to see how we can best do that.”

In April, BPL Chairman Pedro Rolle said the company was absorbing rising fuel costs.

Rolle said he couldn’t quantify the financial impact, but given the sharp rise in oil prices around that time, it was estimated that the cost for BPL operations would amount to tens of millions of dollars extra for fuel.

In June, BPL CEO Shevonn Cambridge predicted the company will increase its fuel charge in “the next month or two”.

“The process or the procedure for adjusting it is prescribed in the fuel charge [regulation]…” Cambridge said.

“So, I foresee within the month or two that that adjustment will have to be made.”

In the past, as the price of fuel increased, BPL would normally pass the cost on to customers in the form of a fuel surcharge attached to each bill; and in recent years, the fuel surcharge has peaked as high as 27.7 cents per kilowatt hour.

BPL entered into its first fuel hedging program in 2020, which locked customers into a lower rate of 10.5 cents per kWh, however, there were uncertainties on whether the Davis administration continued with the hedging program in its original form to lock in prices for fuel before the recent spike.

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BPL has been absorbing higher fuel costs

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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