BPL to put power in consumers’ hands

BPL to put power in consumers’ hands
Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) CEO, Whitney Heastie. (FILE PHOTO)

Company will test Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) next year


NASSAU, BAHAMAS – In a bid to revolutionize the way customers track and budget their energy consumption, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) will begin testing its Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) in the second quarter of 2019.

“With the implementation of AMI, customers are going to take the power and bring that power into their own hands. They’ll see their consumption firsthand and be able to decide how they use power and ultimately determine how much they will pay for their electricity bills,” said Whitney Heastie, BPL CEO.

“For example, if somebody is seeing that they’re approaching the end of the month and they don’t want their kilowatt usage to exceed a certain amount of hours, they can decide whether or not they’ll burn their air conditioning unit. AMI will really transform the whole business of power utility.”

The Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) that BPL uses is an older technology that collects and transfers usage data from home meters to the utility. But as BPL transitions into a modern utility with a focus on customer service, it welcomes the efficiency and two-way communication that AMI provides.

Customers will be able to examine their real-time energy consumption, while BPL will be able to communicate cost to the consumer periodically, rather than once per month. While this new infrastructure will be tested in 2019, it will be another two years before the technology is implemented throughout the entire Bahamas.

In the meantime, Heastie encourages customers to begin adjusting their energy consumption habits and “do due diligence to offset their electricity bills now.”

According to Mr. Heastie, most energy consumption in residential homes is caused by “higher voltage” appliances like air conditioning units, stoves, dryers, water heaters and freezers—all of which can be adjusted to be more energy-efficient. Homeowners can set air conditioning units to a moderate temperature and use ceiling fans to supplement the cooling process.

Freezers should be defrosted on a regular basis to ensure that the appliance isn’t doing more work than necessary.   Homeowners should also fit their water heaters with a timer that restricts operation to morning and evening, therefore relying on the heater’s insulation capacity for the rest of the day.

Homeowners should also be conscious of how often they use an electric dryer.  Opt for a gas dryer which uses direct heat as opposed to an electric dryer that works via a heated coil.

“There are so many things that individuals can do that may seem expensive, but I can guarantee you that it’s a whole lot cheaper than the electricity bill that they would get if they don’t do it,” said Heastie, noting that operating an electric dryer for 45 minutes can account for half of the average homeowner’s typical daily usage.

The average home uses between 600 and 800 kilowatt hours of energy per month, which translates to 20 kilowatts per day. Yet, there are some BPL customers, who are unaware that they are using up to four times the average daily consumption.

“These are things that if individuals become more aware, I think they will say, ‘you know what, I have control over this and I have the ability to impact my electricity bill every month’. What’s surprising is that a lot of Bahamians don’t know how to read their bills, so we have a lot of work to do in terms of education,” Heastie added.

As BPL prepares to launch AMI in 2019, it is also building a team responsible for raising awareness about how customers can be more energy efficient at home, understand their electrical bills better, and monitor their own meters. BPL plans to have customers conduct experiments based on specific conservation tips and provide testimonials which it hopes will encourage more customers to change consumption habits.