TOUGH SELL: Advocacy group slams GBPC’s rate increase proposal as “insensitive” and “out of touch”

TOUGH SELL: Advocacy group slams GBPC’s rate increase proposal as “insensitive” and “out of touch”
The Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) headquarters.

GBPC says rate hike undesirable but necessary to maintain operations

Coalition of Concerned Citizens prepared to protest “at a level we have never done before”

FREEPORT, GRAND BAHAMA — An advocacy group has slammed the Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC) as being “insensitive” and “out of touch” over a four percent rate increase application.

The GBPC said in a statement that as a part of its regulatory framework agreement, it has filed its first rate adjustment application since 2015 with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA).

The company said the filing addresses two main topics: the requirement for an increase in base rates to maintain its operations going forward, and a generation plan that would see 15 percent of the island’s electricity needs fueled by renewable energy by 2026, bringing greater energy diversification and independence. 

Dave McGregor.

Dave McGregor, GBPC’s president and chief operating officer of Emera Caribbean, said: “GBPC has faced significant challenges since our last application in 2015 with impacts from two major unprecedented hurricane events, Matthew and Dorian, and in each case, has responded with quick action to safely restore the island’s electricity in record time.

“Despite the challenges, we’ve continued to manage the operations and capital investments to stabilize rates for customers. We know no one wants to see rates increase, but the reality is that we need to continue to invest in our operations to maintain safe, reliable and increasingly renewable electricity service for customers for years to come.” 

The average increase to the all-in rate for all customers is projected to be four percent, as compared to inflation rates in The Bahamas of 8.4 percent over the past several years. Not all customers will see a rate increase and, in fact, a decrease in base rates is proposed for a segment of residential customers. 

Pastor Eddie Victor, head of the Coalition for Concerned Citizens — which was launched in 2013, told Eyewitness News: “We don’t believe this is the time to be raising rates. We believe the time has come for rates to be going down.

“Our protest will be at a level we have never done before. We are going to use everything at our disposal to stop this rate increase in Grand Bahama.

“Our primary objective is for the rates to go down on this island. That is why we started this coalition.

“I don’t know who is advising this company but they are obviously out of touch with what is going on, on the island. We have not recovered from the hurricane. The economy of this island has not recovered.”

He added: “To inflict a four percent increase on the population is totally insensitive. We need to do everything to stop them and, if possible, get another power company on this island.

“There is no negotiation with his company. The people on the island have to let their voices be heard and stand up [to] this.

“We plan to have a virtual Town Hall and a number of protests to demonstrate against this increase.”

Nikita Mullings.

According to Nikita Mullings GBPC’s Chief Operating Officer, the application proposes a 3.2 percent rate reduction for residential customers who consume up to 200 kilowatt-hours per month, representing about 18 percent of customers.

“In addition, there is no change in base rates proposed for residential customers consuming between 201 to 350 kilowatt-hours per month, representing 24 percent of customers,” said Mullings.

“Together, this pricing structure will result in 42 percent of residential customers having a decrease or no change to the base tariff.”

GBPC has noted that, for those residential customers who would experience a rate increase under the filing, proposed increases will vary depending on usage. For those consuming 351 to 800 kilowatt-hours per month, representing about 32 percent of customers, they will see a base increase ranging between 0 percent to 7.5 percent.

Residential customers consuming more than 800 kilowatt-hours per month, representing about 26 percent of its customers, will experience a base increase of 7.5 percent to 8.9 percent.

Under the filing, general service large customers would see an increase of 3.5 percent to four percent, and commercial customers would see across-the-board increases of 4.4 percent. 

The government said it has established a committee to review and address the proposed increase.