Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) officials were unable to say yesterday how soon two critical assets that were being assessed by insurers as part of their investigation into several fires at the Clifton Pier Power Station in September, could be put back online.
The loss of the DA-11 and DA-12 generators has forced BPL to rely on its Blue Hills Power Station which uses more expensive diesel fuel.
The power provider has attributed the use of the more expensive fuel and increase global oil prices in recent months to the higher rates of fuel surcharge on consumers’ bills.
“Right now, those assets are still in the hands of the insurance adjuster who is actually evaluating what’s happened and from our perspective as BPL, we do not want to do anything to interfere with their investigation” said BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey, who appeared on Guardian Radio’s “The Revolution” with host Juan McCartney.
He was joined by BPL CEO Whitney Heastie.
Moxey continued, “We have been having discussions with the insurance company about the timeline for them completing their investigation, but we are not doing anything to interfere with that in any which way, form or fashion.”
A fire erupted at the Clifton Pier Power Station on September 7, causing significant damage to the plant. There were two subsequent fires at the site on September 9 and September 10.
Asked whether the generators at Clifton Pier were sabotaged, Heastie said he could not say as officials were still awaiting a report from authorities.
Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said last week that an investigation was ongoing.
Without a definitive timeline for the assets at the Clifton plant to be returned, BPL officials said consumers might not get any relief for months.
However, Moxey said interim, contingency solutions are being worked on.
Heastie added that he is optimistic the DA-12 generator will be operable and returned to service one the insurance company completes its investigation, but BPL does not know the extent of the work that has to be done on its DA-11 generator.
Consumers have lamented increases in their power bills, particularly the fuel surcharge, which is passed directly onto the consumer.
There have also been increased concerns about power usage.
Explaining how BPL calculates usage, Moxey explained that BPL looks at the cost to generate power in a particular billing period, the number of kilowatt hours consumed by a customer and divides that usage by the total cost of fuel to determine a kilowatt-hour rate.
The fuel surcharge had increased by approximately 53 percent year-on-year as of August.
For September, the fuel surcharge stood at just over 19 cents, compared to the 13.05 cents last September.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that the government will temporarily increase the value-added tax exemption ceiling on electricity bills from $200 to $300.
Some consumers have said the increased VAT exemption is insufficient.
But according to Moxey, more than 63,000 of BPL’s consumers had bills of $300 or less in October.
He said 51,700 of those consumers had bills of under $200 during the same billing period.
BPL has approximately 93,000 consumers, according to officials.
Additionally, the chairman said the average bill for consumers in New Providence was $249 in September; and $236 in October.
Heastie added that despite the impression by some that not much is being done at BPL there has been a lot of movement that has resulted positively on islands, including Abaco, Bimini and Exuma.
He said a plan is being put in place to “stamp out” legacy challenges, but outside of BPL’s well-known technical issues, the power provider’s size and scope of responsibility presents major challenges.