No end in sight

As Bahamians continue to endure prolonged power outages across New Providence, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Chief Executive Officer Whitney Heastie said yesterday there is no timeline for the end of load shedding, noting that the power company is “sitting on the edge every day”.

Speaking to reporters at BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Plant, Heastie insisted, “We cannot guarantee load shedding will not take place because we are on the edge. We’re on the cliff.”

The power company needs 250 megawatts of generation in order to meet the summer demand, according to Heastie.

However, it is currently running on 210 megawatts, including 105 megawatts of rental generation.

Heastie said the 40-megawatt shortfall has led to load shedding across New Providence.

“We have three generators that are currently down at the Blue Hills plant,” he said.

“That’s a total of 60 megawatts and so we need two of those three generators to be returned to service.

“As I stated, we anticipate getting two of them back, that will close the shortfall. The third one is a little bit less likely to return because of the failure that that generator has seen. The challenge we have is with an aging fleet.

“Last night, over the course of the night, we would’ve had four additional units that would’ve gone down. There is no guarantee, to sit here and guarantee that when those two units come back that another two won’t go down.

“So, as long as we’re in this situation where we have no wiggle room, no spare capacity, we’re sitting on the edge every day. We cannot guarantee that there will not be any load shedding.” 

For months, communities on New Providence have been rocked with hours-long blackouts as part of BPL’s load shedding exercise due to its inability to meet consumer demand.

Over the last few weeks, BPL has conducted nearly four-hour-long daily load shedding exercises.

Heastie said the company had hopes that rental generation units from Aggreko would prevent load shedding for summer 2019.

“While we were certainly cognizant of the tight rope we were walking, due to the pressure being placed on the remaining plant, we did not anticipate this level of system failure,” he said.

“And if we did, we would not have had the resources to mitigate the situation as this level of accelerated decay could not have been anticipated.”

Last month, BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey insisted that there is no crisis at the power company, but Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard has vehemently disagreed, declaring that the power company has reached a level of catastrophe.

Yesterday, Moxey said while the company is “extremely challenged”, it has not reached crisis level.

“Right now for us, we have significant challenges in maintaining generation. It’s a significant challenge,” he said.

“If in fact the assets that the CEO has been talking about at Blue Hills or the assets here at Clifton get damaged beyond repair…now you’re in a position where you got to quickly solve that issue.”

He added, “So, now you’re in that what people are calling a crisis mode, if that happens. We are not at the point yet.”

Moxey apologized to the public for not “providing the level of service that should be expected from a national electrical utility”.

BPL announced in March that Finnish technology group Wartsila will install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant at Clifton at a cost of $95 million to increase the generation capacity on New Providence.

The project is expected to be completed by December 15, 2019, according to Edmund Phillips, a business development specialist for Wartsila.

Phillips said that no environmental impact assessment was required for the project “because you are touching an existing facility”.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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