NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As he criticized Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) over its “poor” performance, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis made his case for an increase in consumer’s bills, urging them to be “realistic” given the situation.
The government recently tabled an Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2019, which will allow the power company to restructure more than $320 million in inherited debt, and secure more than $350 million in new funding to address longstanding issues.
BPL consumers can expect to see a temporary increase in their electricity bills of about $20-$30 per month due to the bond.
“This summer was particularly burdensome, miserable, long, and hot here in New Providence in terms of blackouts. Bahamas Power and Light performed poorly,” Minnis said, as he contributed to the debate on the bill.
“There were prolonged blackouts. There was extended and significant disruption to family life and to businesses. Bahamians, residents and visitors to our shores deserve better.”
Minnis pointed to the infrastructure at BPL as the heart of the problem.
“We have spent many millions as a country, renting generators over the years because our supply could not meet the demand,” the prime minister continued.
“Instead of fixing BPL, the country just kept renting more generators. It was like putting Band-Aids on an injury that needed radical surgery and a permanent fix.”
Minnis further pointed to the power company’s financial crisis as a part of BPL’s ongoing issues and once again lambasted the Progressive Liberal Party for the management of the company when it was in office over two years ago.
He said the bod restructure process will seek to move away from the need for government backing of BPL’s debt to a position where the organization can take care of itself.
“The government of The Bahamas had to step in to back BPL’s debt,” Minnis said.
“Cash strapped and burdened with debt, the structure of the energy supplier is woefully inadequate for it to make the necessary long-term investments to purchase and to maintain the equipment and resources to provide quality, sustainable service. These are other hard facts.
“Decades of short-term decision making, poor choices, and in some instances, corruption, have brought BPL to its knees.
“What we witnessed this summer was a symptom and a poor legacy of a collapse that started at BPL many, many, years ago.
“My government made a decision to stop making any more short-term decisions when it came to BPL, and to energy generation and distribution in our country.
“We decided that we had to fix this problem here and now.”
The prime minister said in order to comprehensively more forward and end the instability at BPL, the country must pay for the expenditure of the past and raise new funds to ensure the power stays on in the future.
“That is the purpose of this Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill,” Minnis added.
“BPL has 321 million dollars of legacy debt and it needs to raise millions more for its future needs. Consumers will pay a fee to cover these costs… No one likes new costs. But as a mature independent democracy we must be realistic as to how development and progress take place.”
He added that in order to avoid repeating the summer in New Providence, “we must invest heavily in new equipment, software and the facilities of the future. “
Minnis said: “With the addition of cleaner cheaper fuel and new more efficient generators that consume less energy, it is expected that the cost of electricity will go down in time. We are seeking to make the difficult decisions now to ensure a better and cheaper energy future for all Bahamians.”