By Bahamas Power and Light Chairman Donovan Moxey
This summer, customers of Bahamas Power and Light have yet again endured frustrating periods of load-shedding as generation capacity has failed to meet demand for electricity. Prime Minister, the Most Honorable Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, was correct – this was a crisis for families who could not cook meals, small business owners who could not complete transactions, and every Bahamian who had their daily life disrupted by these periods without power.
We want to clearly say everyone at BPL, from leadership on down, understands the anger and frustration this has caused. From people stuck at the grocery store check-out lines when the power goes out, to drivers who can’t pump gas when they pull into the station, we understand that load-shedding has adversely impacted the daily lives of our customers – and we apologize. It is every bit as frustrating to us that we cannot fix these problems overnight. We would if we could.
In August, BPL began disseminating a Daily Fact Sheet to update the public on the state of affairs day by day. We are committed to improving our communication with the Bahamian people to help you understand what we are doing to put an end to load shedding once and for all.
But as we endeavor to address these critical failures in the short term and develop long-term solutions, it is important to understand how we came to the present-day failures. These problems have been many years in the making. Over the last few decades, our generation plants have decayed. Our generation fleet in some cases is almost 40 years old. From a practical standpoint that means when parts are needed they can be difficult to procure or simply may no longer be available. In some cases, the demand on the assets was so great that they could not be taken offline for full repairs, leading to further decay and degradation of already aging equipment and systems. In addition, many years passed where preventative maintenance was not a priority and funding was not available to maintain BPL’s assets to industry standards.
At the same time, demand for electricity has grown dramatically in New Providence. Unfortunately, this growing demand was not matched by a parallel investment to increase generation capacity. This means that today, while our peak demand has now grown to about 250 megawatts(MW) a day we only have the capacity to generate about 210MW of power each day. The 40MW shortfall in generation led to load shedding throughout the summer.
The good news is that, despite a number of setbacks, BPL has returned the first of the two failed generators at Blue Hills Power Station to service, making up about half the 40MW shortfall. The second unit is under the inspection of a specialist even now, and we will continue to update the public on that unit’s return to service.
The bad news is that even with both of these generators back online, we still have no excess capacity in the system. That means that if another one of the aging generators fails, load- shedding may need to resume.
While this is certainly not an ideal situation in the near-term, the longer-term outlook for BPL and our consumers is much brighter. Soon BPL will complete construction of the new Station A power plant at Clifton Pier. This is the first phase of our generation turnaround strategy. The new 132MW plant will begin to give BPL excess capacity in our system to help prevent future load- shedding. Over the next two years as phase two (the Gas-to-Power Plant by Shell North America) and phase three (the Terminal Facility for LNG Regassification) are brought to completion, our capacity will grow and consumers will see the benefits of cleaner, less-expensive, and more environmentally-friendly electrical generation on New Providence.
As customers of BPL, we know your patience has run out and we do not expect your sympathy. At the end of the day, we know we can only share with you the facts as we focus on growing our electrical generation capacity and hope you can appreciate the magnitude of the situation we are trying to fix. We know that BPL can only expect to regain your trust when you can walk in your door, turn on a light switch, and know with confidence that the light will turn on. We promise you that day is coming and the leadership and employees of BPL are doing everything in our power to make it happen as quickly and safely as we can.