Op-Ed

Electrical woes: here we go again!

This week, I read comments from Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears, on the recent power outages at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL). He stated that the matter is not a “novel” one for The Bahamas, as we are, supposedly, used to the power going off.

Well, Minister Sears, we are so used to power cuts that it’s like second nature, but we don’t like it. So really make it novel and fix this unreliable supply of electricity once and for all!

At some point, we should have a regular supply of electricity without interruptions. We should also be aware of when the power will cut, and not sit for hours waiting for electricity to turn on. Time is something we can not get back, why waste our time waiting on a source of energy to be restored? A system should be in place to notify us of power outages and the estimated outage time.

On Sunday I was getting ready for a relaxing afternoon, but suddenly there was a large clap of thunder, and I said to myself, “Well the power is going off soon.” I should have rebuked that thought, because as I thought it, it happened. The current went off!

What a miserable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. For several hours I tried calling BPL to inquire on when it may turn back on again. Only to be frustrated with a voice recording constantly asking my location, over and over again. I gave up and resigned myself. I came to the conclusion that I need a generator. Insanely I kept hoping that BPL would get it right, but it doesn’t look so.

BPL needs to get its act together. Too many productive hours are lost as employees are left twiddling their fingers waiting for the current to come on. Children who are doing virtual classes need the electricity and internet. Even the internet providers have been falling down in providing us with reliable and fast internet services, however, that is a topic for another day.

I remember a friend of mine jokingly saying although former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis had us locked down, at least he kept the power on. I reckon there is merit in what he said, as our misery would have been compounded if the power went off during our long periods of being locked down. Talk about piling misery on top of misery. 

We have heard stories about how BPL was going to invest in new equipment and partner with Shell, however, we are still in the dark as to what progress has been made. I guess this ongoing war with Russia and Ukraine will have an impact on our cost of fuel, and we can be assured that eventually it will be passed on to us, the consumers. If the Ukraine conflict continues, getting fuel will become more difficult and costlier.

One thing for sure, we have an abundance of sunshine, and yet we have been slow in harnessing this free source of power from the sun. We can convert to renewable energy and break our dependence on fossil fuel. This is not rocket science, as some countries have cut their dependence on fossil fuel and have embraced renewable energy as a top priority, while we try to patch up BPL year after year.

Energy that is produced by solar is clean, renewable and has zero emissions. Solar energy does not contribute towards greenhouse gasses or fossil fuels, unlike other oils and coals. Essentially this means that solar panels are environmentally friendly products and will not harm the planet. It is one of the reasons why we should make a move towards solar.

It is time for us to bite the bullet, go off the grid, and solarize our homes. It’s a big investment and one that the government should encourage by giving incentives, such as a break on real property tax and removal of VAT from the panels and batteries.

We are being held hostage from the outside world, from our food supply and fuel, it’s time for us to reduce our dependency as much as we can. These conflicts around the world, including climate change, are putting our very existence in jeopardy.

Although we have had power outages for so long, it is time for our country to grow and meet the needs of a growing economy.

William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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