Prepaid meters could save disconnected customers, improve BPL cash flow

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation’s (BCCEC) Energy and Environment Committee Chair Deborah Deal said yesterday that prepaid metering is necessary to reduce the burden of electricity costs on poor Bahamians and to improve Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) receivables, which are in the area of $100 million.

BPL has an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) plan in place, but the $30 million project hinges on the company somehow raising the money to fund it.

With the postponement of the rate reduction bond (RRB), the project has had to be put on hold.

Deal said while BPL is waiting for the money to begin the AMI project, it should begin to install prepaid meters on the homes of the most vulnerable people in need of electricity. 

“For the persons that are struggling now, instead of coming up with the money they owe, I would have them come up with the money for maybe two months, put that down on it and start using it (the prepaid meter), then you let them deal with the fact of whether they have power, or don’t have power,” said Deal during an appearance on radio talk show Morning Blend Business.

She contended that BPL should not have such an extensive credit and collections department, adding that large companies and government corporations that are not paying their bills should simply be cut off.

“Why should BPL even have a credit and collections department? It’s not something they need for their business because if the bills were paid, they could even eliminate that, but they have to have a large department of credit and collections, so that people can figure out how they’re going to pay their bill as well as continue to have power.

“We’re putting all the onus on the energy company. The energy company is there to provide energy, not to give us free energy for three to four months and then we try to figure out how to pay it.

“When people don’t pay their bills, BPL has to write that off. That comes back onto our bills, so as far as I can see, if we were to go with prepaid meters, you would be in charge of your own power.”

Deal said Bahamians need to take charge of their power given this long-standing problem of BPL’s growing receivables.

BPL hoped to complete the nationwide implementation of AMI by the end of 2022, but now the project’s timeline is up in the air. The vendor for the meters has already been secured and an initial design for New Providence has been completed.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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