PM: BPL has embarrassed us

PM: BPL has embarrassed us
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

Friday’s island-wide black out resulted from failure on transmission network

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday called Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) an embarrassment following last Friday’s island-wide blackout.

“It is essential that BPL be fixed,” said Minnis, when asked for his assessment of the latest power outage, which was caused by a complete failure on BPL’s transmission network.

“BPL has been embarrassing us for over 30 years.

“We cannot continue to kick the can down the road.

“For decades BPL has been plagued by mismanagement. It has been plagued by waste. It’s been plagued by corruption. It’s been plagued by fraud.

Minnis said: “That must stop and we are about to stop that. So, rather than kicking that can — yes, we can kick the can down the road and patch here or there — but what we do know is that one day BPL is going to crash, which means your power is going to be zero.”

Last week, Parliament passed rate reduction bond for BPL, coined the National Utility Investment Bond, which will refinance the power company’s $321 million legacy debt by raising $250 million over 20 to 25 years.

The bond is expected to increase electricity bills on average by $20 to $30 per month for a 10-month period. BPL has said the rate of maturity is to reduce the impact on the cost to consumers.

There has been widespread public outcry that the measure represents too great a burden for consumers, droves of whom have lamented the power company’s service in recent months.

Minnis said the government was faced with a choice: correct the issue or avoid it for political expediency.

He suggested the government could immediately reduce the cost of electricity for New Providence consumers by 15 percent; however, he said this move would also increase bills for Family Islanders by as much as 50 percent.

“We can avoid that, all cost and hold it. And we can drop your electricity bill dramatically overnight if we chose to do that. If your bill is $300 per month, with an immediate decision we can drop your bill by $45. We subsidize the Family Island. They are our brothers and they are our sisters.”

He continued: “If I stop that subsidy, [and] I bring your cost down by $45 for every $300, those islands that I speak about, their cost will go up from $300 to $450 overnight. Those islanders, if they are paying $700, their cost will move from $700 to $1,050 overnight. Is that fair? Would you do that to Acklins? Would you do that to Crooked Island? Would you do that to your brothers and sisters in the other Family Islands? We say no.”

Minnis said his administration is doing what it must so future generations will benefit from lower power bills and no blackout.

“We must correct the problem and as we correct the problem we are preparing for tomorrow,” he said.

“It means that our future generation will not see blackouts. As we move to alternative energy, the cost will come down. As we move to LNG (liquified natural gas), the cost will come down. What do you want?

Minnis said: “Do you want to protect the future or do you want to politically protect yourself and do nothing — win an election but lose a country. I have said on multiple occasions I came to serve. I prefer to lose an election than lose a country.”

The prime minister has pledged to significantly increase the use of renewable energy, namely solar, before the end of his term.

Blackout

After a summer of almost daily load shedding due to a generation shortfall, BPL continues to experience challenges.

Last Friday, residents and businesses in New Providence were impacted for hours by the island-wide outag.

In a statement, BPL said it underwent a system shutdown at 6:40 p.m. as a result of a failure on the transmission network.

BPL said its system, designed to limit the impact of such faults, did not become operational in time to “save the network”.

It said 75 percent of the network was restored by 8:35 p.m., but the power provider “suffered a setback” due to a secondary problem that required it to restart the restoration efforts.

According to BPL, technical challenges during the second attempt at restoration delayed efforts as teams addressed an additional issue.

Approximately 95 percent of the grid was restored by 11 p.m. and remaining consumers, with the exception of some on Seabreeze Lane, were placed back on the grid shortly thereafter, BPL said.

“At this time the issue appears to have been initiated by a failure on the underground cable between our Big Pond station and our East Hill Street primary substation,” BPL said in a statement on Saturday.

“The issue is now being investigated and we will update the public as soon as information becomes available.”

Atlantis’ annual Battle 4 Atlantis basketball final, a major international event being covered by ESPN, was interrupted numerous times as a result of the outage.

Video circulated of the arena plunging into darkness as a basket player performed a layup.

The announcer could be heard saying: “That went in before the lights went out. I think it will count. So, the power has gone out at the resort a couple of times.  Everybody is going to get their flashlight out now.”

When asked if he was referring to the event when he remarked that BPL has embarrassed the country, Minnis repeated: “Embarrassment for the past 30 years.”