URCA: Investigation into power outages given “highest priority”

The authority has not received several reports from BPL on past outages

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Amid ongoing load shedding exercises, the Utilities Regulations Competition Authority (URCA) said yesterday that it will investigate the prolonged and persistent power outages over the weekend which plagued thousands of customers on New Providence.

Speaking to Eyewitness News Online, URCA CEO Stephen Bereaux confirmed URCA will investigate and review the outages over the weekend, a process he said will take some time, but is been treated as a high priority for the regulatory.

“There is a significant question as to the whether the outages over the weekend, the load shedding as BPL referred to it over the weekend, is consistent with their obligation to provide safe, reliable power supply on the island of New Providence

“That’s really all I can say.

“Of course, URCA will be investigating. We will be reaching out. We will be engaging with BPL extensively to determine whether in fact there has been a regulatory breach or whether this is a matter that BPL has been dealing with appropriately and properly.

“I can’t really say much obviously beyond that.

“If you recall the BTC (Bahamas Telecommunications Company) occasion, [it was] the sane; it’s a process. We have to go through that process to determine whether we think anything is wrong.”

He added, “This matter will be given very significant priority by URCA’s utilities and energy team.

Asked about the timeframe of the investigation, Bereaux said, “There is the process itself. There is also though, the [understanding] that power is an essential service and in that circumstance URCA would be seeking to ensure proper arrangements are in place as a matter of urgency because of course as we head into the hot summer we need to ensure there are proper arrangements being made by BPL to provide a safe, reliable power supply.”

BPL consumers in New Providence were faced with extensive outages over the weekend, with many reporting as many as four outages per day ranging from two to four-hour intervals.

In a statement Sunday around 8 p.m., BPL Director of Communications Quincy Parker said load shedding that began last Wednesday was exacerbated over the weekend due to the failure of two of BPL’s generating assets, “extending the times and multiplying the number of outages experienced across the island”.

He said load shedding is expected to continue daily in two-hour rotations until the power company completes the installation of additional rental generations and the assets, which are out of commission for repair or maintenance, are brought back online.

Yesterday, Bereaux said URCA has not received full reports from BPL on from past outages, particularly in the last several weeks.

He said it an issue URCA is seeking to resolve with the power provider.

BPL is required to provides full reports, inclusive of root causes analyses, to URCA on all outages.

URCA’s investigations, recommendations and action taken against BPL is not always publicized, Bereaux explained, as those reports often delve deeply into the operations of the provider.

As it relates to complaints to URCA, Bereaux said the regulatory has observed a “lot of noise”, but pointed out that URCA may not necessarily see an increase in complaints for the time being as consumers must first complain to the utility company; allow the company the prescribed period of time (30 days) to resolve the issue, and if unresolved, then report the matter to URCA.

He said, “At this stage URCA’s focus is really on ensuring that BPL is providing or does everything in its power to provide safe, reliable supply of power of New Providence. We will consider obviously complaints as they come in. I know equipment damage is an issue, and I know BPL itself has mentioned that it expects to receive complaints…. That could very much well have to consider what action is appropriate moving forward to ensure if we do have load shedding or outages that everything is done to keep them at a minimum.”