Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard said yesterday that Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) CEO Whitney Heastie’s refusal to respond to questions over the probe into fires at the company’s plant was unacceptable.
BPL executives hosted a press conference on Sunday to address ongoing generation issues on New Providence, where residents have struggled with continual load shedding for nearly two months.
“A lot of questions he didn’t answer and stuff like that, you know that was also inexcusable,” Maynard said.
“You’re not in a position where because you are the CEO you decide which questions you are going to answer and which type of questions you don’t answer.”
Last September, fire damaged BPL’s generators at Clifton.
The first fire erupted on September 7 around 10:30 p.m. and caused damage to station C, which houses two of the company’s largest generators, prompting BPL to load shed throughout New Providence.
Firefighters responded to three fires at the Clifton plant, in the same areas, just days apart.
Although an investigation into the fires was completed last year, the results have not yet been released to the public.
“You are supposed to be accountable to the public, who is paying you your money,” Maynard said.
“They are paying you handsomely, I might add. So, you don’t have a right to decide you aren’t answering this and you aren’t answering that.”
Last year, the government announced a deal with Shell North America to operate a new liquified natural gas (LNG) plant at Clifton.
However, in March, BPL announced that Finnish technology group Wartsila will install a 132-megawatt engine power plant at Clifton Pier at a cost of $95 million to increase the generation capacity on New Providence.
Maynard said that the government should ask Shell North America to urgently help address the generation issues at BPL.
“Seeing that you are still in bed with Shell, at this juncture, you need to say to Shell, ‘Listen, rather than wait until 2021, we need you to come now,’” he said.
“‘We will give you whatever you want. We need you to come now.’”
Maynard said that by going to Wartsila instead of using Shell, BPL had to use funding intended for maintenance to purchase new Wartsila engines. He said that decision has contributed significantly to the issues the company is now experiencing.
“The fact that they decided to go with Wartsila, they had to take $100 million out of their Cabinet budget,” he said.
He added, “We would have had money to cover upgrades and maintenance.
“The mere fact that we did that, we didn’t have money to operate on.”
BPL officials have said that “Shell North America was directly involved in the selection of Wartsila to build the power plant”.
“Any suggestion or assertion that Shell North America has not been involved in this process is factually incorrect,” BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey has said.