Govt. understands challenges outages represent to public, Turnquest says
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Amid calls from the opposition for the executive management team at Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) to resign over the power “crisis” gripping the nation, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday that the power company has a plan for a “speedy resolution”.
Turnquest acknowledged that persistent load shedding in New Providence has significantly impacted residents and businesses.
Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, Turnquest said, “We do, as a government, certainly feel for our citizens and residents and the inconveniences that they’ve had to endure during this period.
“We know that this is a very significant inconvenience at the least and a significant period that has affected people’s lives; both in terms of business, the economy and also in terms of comfort.”
Turnquest is the second Cabinet minister to speak to the power “crisis”.
During a press conference Sunday at the Clifton Pier Power Station, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie revealed that two downed generators at its Blue Hills Power Plant contributed to a 40-megawatt generation shortfall, which has led to persistent load shedding ranging between three and four hours.
Despite mounting outcry from the public, BPL executives revealed that load shedding could continue until demand drops off in the fall.
BPL executives made a presentation to Cabinet to outline the company’s plan for the way forward two days after that press conference.
Yesterday, Turnquest said he is satisfied that BPL is addressing the issue and “have a plan to a speedy resolution”.
He made on the sidelines of a press conference at the Ministry of Finance.
“The only thing I can say at this point is that they (the public) can be assured that we are working diligently together with BPL to try to bring resolution to this matter,” the minister stated.
“Hopefully this saga is coming to an end and we will be able to build on a more sustainable power plant moving forward.”
BPL announced in March that Finnish technology group Wartsila will install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant at Clifton to increase the generation capacity on New Providence.
According to BPL, the completion of the power plant at station A before the end of this year is the first phase of the power company’s generation turnaround strategy.
Yesterday, Turnquest said there were no discussions to privatize the company.
Despite suggestions in some quarters that the government was actively seeking to privatize the power company, Turnquest said he was unaware of any plans or discussions to that end.
“There’s been no discussion as far as I am aware on the privatization of BPL, but I would defer to the minister and BPL for all conversations in that regard,” he said.
As it relates to the ailing financial state of BPL, a wholly owned subsidiary, the minister indicated that BPL is expected to rollout plans to improve the company’s bottom line before the end of the year.
“BPL has announced for several years now to go out for a rate reduction bond to deal with a whole myriad of financing challenges that they have, so that we anticipate will happen sometime toward the second half of this year,” he said.
“As far as I am aware, that will solve their challenges in that regard.
BPL operates in the run with monthly expenditures exceeding $40 million, according to officials.
Of that, $30 million is spent on fuel.
Another $8 million is spent on the operations of the company.
A further $2 million is paid as interest on loans, according to Heastie, who said “that’s not even including everything else that we are obligated to pay on a monthly basis”.
He said, “The lack of funds in BPL is how we got to where we are today.”