November power bills don’t reflect steep drop in oil prices

Between 4,000 and 6,000 customers off the grid

 

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – While global crude oil prices have decreased by more than 30 per cent in the last month, Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) 93,000 residential customers are not likely see that decrease reflected on their power bills for several months.

As numerous BPL customers question why the price drop has not been reflected in their bills this month, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister explained in Parliament Wednesday that customers’ November BPL bills reflect oil bought three months ago.

As of October, global oil prices were holding at nearly $80 per barrel after months of steady increase.

This month, crude oil prices dropped to around $55 per barrel.

The minister also said the power company continues to use more expensive diesel fuel at its Blue Hills Power Plant, a result of three fires at the Clifton Pier Power Station in September, which damaged two generators: a D11 and D12.

Those damaged generators remain in the hands of insurers as part of their investigation.

The cause of those fires remain unclear.

Bannister said he awaits the completed investigation, which will be made clear to the public.

He said until then, he will not speculate.

“All of us are Bahamian who are concerned about the plight of our citizens, all of us,” Bannister said.

As he empathized with the public, the minister said every effort is being made to address the issues.

He said he had a two-hour meeting with the BPL board on Monday and met with them again on Wednesday to troubleshoot.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled the value-added tax (VAT) Amendment Act in Parliament Wednesday, which once passed, will increase the VAT exemption ceiling on electricity bills from $200 or less to $300 or less.

Minnis said the government hopes the measure will ease the burden on Bahamas Power and Light consumers facing higher electricity bills due to recent increases — 45 per cent — in BPL’s fuel surcharge.  The increased VAT exemption takes effect November 1, 2018 and will expire July 1, 2019.

Meanwhile, thousands of BPL customers remain without power due to delinquency.

Bannister said despite reconnection exercises, at any given time, there are between 4,000 and 6,000 Bahamians without power.

“These are serious issues that all governments, opposition, everybody has to take seriously,” Bannister stressed.

“I’ve looked at some figures of people who’ve been disconnected for long periods of time.

“I have some in my constituency and I don’t know how they exist without power.”

In a recent interview, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie revealed that prior to BPL’s latest reconnection exercise several months ago, there were approximately 5,000 customers without power due to delinquency.

While he was unable to provide the latest figures on disconnected consumers, Heastie told Eyewitness News that even after numerous reconnection exercise over the years, those reconnected customers fall back into delinquency after a short period of time. In the House of Assembly, Bannister made a similar point.

According to the minister, the prime minister approved another reconnection program earlier this year that allowed customers to pay 25 percent of their BPL bills and pay the outstanding balance over a period of time.

“One of the things that BPL found was that after a few months it went back to normal,” he said.

“People benefitted from it, but then a lot of people took it for granted, businesses also.”

One of the central concerns of a protest in Rawson Square on Wednesday was high BPL bills.