In the wake of an almost three-day power outage on Harbour Island that left residents in the dark, the Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce (ECC) plans to bring stakeholders together to begin developing a strategic plan to mitigate further occurrences, ECC President Thomas Sands said.
Sands, in a statement, said blackouts often mean the loss of business for Bahamians.
He said that the fault in Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) systems created uncertainty and helplessness for businesses during the all-important Christmas retail season.
“We understand that on Monday, December 23, 2019, an accident occurred on Harbour Island which resulted in the loss of power supply to the island,” he said.
“The outage left the community without power for more than two and a half days and crippled many businesses during the peak retail season. As many of you know, mid-December to mid-April constitutes the busiest retail period for our economy, which is heavily dependent on tourism.
“According to Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce (ECC) Director Mr. Ryan Austin, who resides on Harbour Island, a number of local businesses were closed during the outage. Those closures signaled a loss of revenue for businesses, and likely a loss of income for persons employed by those businesses.”
Sands said in his statement that quicker response times are needed from BPL in order to mitigate potential losses to businesses. He added that more information needs to be forthcoming.
“…We think it important to highlight the need for a swifter response strategy (like increased BPL manpower) when major incidences like this occur,” he said.
“Also, a number of persons noted that there was no clear timeline given for the restoration of power, which meant that businesses without generators were left helpless and uncertain regarding when they would be able to resume business.”
According to Sands, the ECC will move to begin dialogue with the government and BPL to develop a plan to fix Eleuthera’s unreliable power grid.
BPL itself is already in the very early stages of putting solar grids on Eleuthera and other Family Islands in an effort to create environmentally sustainable power.
Sands explained that as more new foreign investment projects come to the island, more reliable power will be needed.
“Throughout the island of Eleuthera, businesses frequently lament that they cannot rely on the current power grid,” he said.
“Reliable infrastructure is paramount to the further growth and development of our island, so more investment is required if we are going to grow this economy. We have all heard about the major direct foreign investments planned for the island, but these investments will not succeed unless our infrastructure challenges are addressed.
“Businesses [that] can afford to invest in generators do; but let’s face it, many of the smaller businesses are not in a position to make such a significant investment. And to provide our guests with an enjoyable and engaging ‘Bahamian’ experience, we need those small businesses just as much as we need the multi-million dollar resorts.”