BPL on the “edge, of the cliff”

BPL on the “edge, of the cliff”

40-megawatt shortfall; load shedding to persist until fall when demand drops

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Following months of load-shedding in New Providence, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) CEO Whitney Heastie revealed yesterday that the power company has been teetering on “the edge, of the cliff” with a 40-megawatt generation shortfall and no expectation of load shedding desisting until fall.

“We cannot guarantee load shedding will not take place; because we are on the edge. We are on the cliff,” Heastie told the media during a highly-anticipated press conference at BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Station.

He continued, “As we get deeper into the fall the demand will drop-off, and so will the need for load shedding.”

Seeking to provide a detailed explanation as to what has led to the shoddy power supply of late, much to the frustration of residential and commercial consumers, Heastie pointed out that aging equipment — in some cases 60 years old — is a major contributing factor to the company’s power generation issues at current.

He said unexpected malfunctions, failed equipment and the inability to readily find replacement parts for older machines compounds BPL’s challenges, and has put the power company in a difficult position despite efforts to mitigate long-standing issues.

“While our existing generating fleet has been in decay, the load in New Providence has consistently grown with many new megacomplexes,” Heastie said.

“We had hoped that with the additional generation units from Aggreko; we would be in a better position to prevent load shedding for the summer.

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

He continued, “If we did [anticipate this level of failure], we would not have had the resources to mitigate the situation as this level of accelerated decay could not have been anticipated.”

BPL requires 250-megawatts to supply power to New Providence, according to Heastie.

However, the power company has been generating 210-megawatts, a 40-megwatt shortfall.

“That 210-megawatts are made up of 105-megawatts from the rental units from Aggreko; 35-megawatts from Clifton’s Station B and another 7- megawatts from our Blue Hills Power Plant,” Heastie said.

“Our 40-megawatt shortfall of what is required is what has led to the load shedding that we are currently experiencing.

“We are working feverishly on returning two generators at our Blue Hills Power Station that will make up [for] this shortfall.

“However, we cannot guarantee that other units will not fail and return us to load shedding as we have no excess capacity.”

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

The project is expected to cost a reported $95 million.

Some have questioned why BPL’s board moved forward with the project instead of pumping the funds into equipment maintenance.

While Heastie noted that old equipment is a large part of the power generation challenges, he ndicated that even if the $95 million were used for maintenance “it still would not have been able to save us from the current situation that we are in today”.

BPL Chairman Dr. Donovan Moxey also insisted that the engines will not be a dead investment for BPL.

He noted that once online, the new engines will not only assist with enhanced power generation, but will also be tied into the Shell North America power generation plant.

Moxey also said a three phased program over the next three years will remedy BPL’s long standing issues.

“The completion of the 132-megawatt power plant at station A before the end of this year is the first phase of our generation turnaround strategy,” he said.

“This station is intended to be incorporated into the power generation facilities that will be built and operated by Shell North America.

“The completion of a second gas-to-power plant by Shell North America will mark the completion of the second phase of our generation turnaround strategy, which will see another 90-plus, megawatts of high efficiency, low emission generators pumping power into the grid by mid-2021.”

Moxey added, “Phase three of the phased plan is the completion of the terminal facility for LNG regasification, which is expected to be fully operational by December 2021.”

BPL consumers continue to express their frustration with the power outages, taking to Facebook and other social media platform to blast the power company.

Some have bemoaned high electricity bills despite the outages and demanded that BPL provide some form of compensation.

When asked about compensation for consumers, BPL officials said the company only bills for power consumed.

“We bill only what we sell,” he said.

“That means if the meter is not turning… we do not bill as consumers pay per use.”

About Theo Sealy

Theo Sealy is an award-winning journalist who serves as senior broadcast reporter and weekend TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. He has achieved several career milestones, including his work as a field contributor with CNN, his coverage of four consecutive general elections, his production of several docuseries and his Bahamas Press Club Awards win for “Best Television News Story” in 2018.