Noting that the rebuilding of Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) transmission network on Abaco is about 90 percent complete, the power company’s Chief Executive Officer Shevonn Cambridge said the biggest challenge right now is demand.
Addressing the Abaco Business Outlook last week, Cambridge said the power company is challenged with rebuilding adequate supply, but with so few Abaconians having returned to the island, it has been difficult determining the scale and scope needed.
“We’re trying to replace systems that were built over a number of years and for us it’s vast. Abaco is one of the longer islands and we had catastrophic damage throughout. So, we’re about 90 percent complete with our transmission network. On the generation side, we’ve shored up our plant at Wilson City, and work continues at the Marsh Harbour plant. So, on the generation side we’re pretty stable and we’re making good progress on the T&D (transmission and distribution) side,” he said.
“I think one of the other significant challenges for us now is demand. The demand isn’t there, so we have to try and synchronize our rebuild along with demand, so that we don’t over build because of course there are some financial considerations to be made around that. There’s also the rebuilding of our staff and consumer confidence.”
In March, the government signed a $9 million non-reimbursable financing agreement facilitated through the European Union Caribbean Investment Facility (EU-CIF) to build two solar microgrids on Abaco, as well as other microgrids on New Providence.
One will to be built near the Marsh Harbour Health Center and the government complex in Central Abaco; and the other at the Cooper’s Town Medical Clinic in Northern Abaco.
“BPL does have a renewable energy plan in motion and actually we’re also working in conjunction with the project execution unit out of the government with regard to some microgrids around essential facilities in the community. So, you may see microgrids going up around the government complexes and clinics, which are a part of not only providing supplemental energy, but also providing a backup source in the event of future catastrophic events, that would allow those facilities to remain up and running. But overall, their contribution is they will remain grid tied and they will also assist with bringing down the fossil fuel generation demand for Abaco,” Cambridge said last week.
“The water corp. is also commissioning a small microgrid around its production, which will also assist with greener production of energy in the community. BPL also supports a number of programs that are in place by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, which support the promotion of residential and small commercial consumer participation in any number of renewable projects.”
Cambridge added that BPL is making deliberate decisions to ensure that Abaco has reliable, affordable and safe power and that the company is rebuilding with resiliency in mind.
“In terms of unique opportunities, with the system having been leveled to what I would call a brown field, it brings up a new opportunity for us to factor in resiliency in terms of microgrids and solar or renewable energy. So it’s an opportunity for us to leverage technology and make the power production consumption in Abaco more efficient,” he said.
“From the production side, utilizing more renewables and from the consumption side, utilizing more energy efficient appliances and design in your rebuilds. So I think that’s a unique opportunity this unfortunate event has provided.”