NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) prepares to introduce a new fee to its electricity consumers, the owner of a leading food store chain spoke out against the move.
“I’m against it,” Super Value owner Rupert Roberts told Eyewitness News Online in a recent interview.
The government last week passed the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill (ERRB), 2019, which will allow BPL to restructure more than $320 million in inherited debt, and secure more than $350 million in new funding to address longstanding issues.
The legislation makes clear that BPL’s customer base will be relied upon to service the bond issue.
Roberts continued: “I don’t know really what they are doing but I would have hoped the past $650 million would have been paid out of the savings.
“Let’s say if they leave our bill the way it is with the new plant and the new type of fuel, we’ll give them millions of dollars to pay the back debt.
He said: “I would have thought that’s what they would have done instead of raising the current bill – just pay the back debt off of the tremendous savings.
“I would think that in the future they could run BPL for half of what they’ve been running it at and that would give us tremendous savings to pay the back debt.”
BPL announced in March that it signed a $95 million contract with Finnish technology group Wartsila to install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant at the Clifton Pier site.
The power company has said once the plant is complete it will no longer need rental generators to operate at the Blue Hills power station, which cost The Bahamas millions of dollars annually.
The new engines are also expected to lower the cost of operations at BPL, while the fuel flexibility of the engines means The Bahamas will be able to move toward the use of more environmentally friendly fuel.
Officials have projected that the plant will be operational by December 15.
During his communication in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister of Public Works Desmond Banister revealed $70 million of the proceeds from the rate reduction bond will fund the expansion of the Wartsila plant at the Clifton Pier Power Station.
Bannister also announced that the average household light bill will increase temporarily by $20 to $30.
But Roberts yesterday questioned what the bill increase would mean for BPL’s commercial consumers.
“I wouldn’t mind if we got a $30 increase on our million-dollar BPL bill,” Roberts said.
“To get a $30 increase on our BPL bill why should I mind. I’d pay that out my pocket.”
But the local businessman said he knows that will not be the case.
“Your bill at home is going to be $30 but mine will be $300,000,” he continued.
“So what is the clarification on that? On each portfolio bill are they going to add $30? You know that’s not on Super Value stores with $50,000 and $60,000 bills a month. It’s not like you’re going to add $30.
He added: “So we have to wait and see on that one.”
Asked whether the eventual cost would be passed onto Super Value consumers, Roberts said: “Every expense in business is passed onto consumers. Business is only a sort of convenience to the customer. It has to be passed onto the customer.
“Everything is passed onto the customer; our duty, our VAT, our payroll, our BPL. Everything the customer has to pay. Who’s going to pay it if the customer doesn’t pay it.”