By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation (BEC) chairman, Leslie Miller, yesterday said getting the Clifton Power station “up to scratch” could reduce electricity costs by as much as 25 per cent, adding that he was aiming for a 70/30 power generation split between that site and the Blue Hills power station.
Mr Miller told Tribune Business that one of the biggest challenges facing the monopoly energy provider was its “outrageously high” fuel bill.
“With the high cost of fuel today it makes it almost prohibitive as far as getting cheaper fuel costs, so what we must do is get the Clifton power station up to scratch because Clifton uses a less expensive fuel with the Bunker C, rather than the automotive diesel oil (ADO), which is much more expensive. If we can get some new machinery in there and get it up to scratch then people could see and appreciate the decrease,” said Mr Miller.
“The Blue Hills station runs on all gas turbine engines, and they burn more fuel than any other. We need to get some new engines at Clifton and use that as the primary generator of electricity for New Providence, and Blue Hills as the secondary holding station for generating electricity.
“Right now Blue Hills is generating m,ore electricity than Clifton. That needs to be reversed to a 70-30 spilt. That is going to take some time and some money.”
Mr Miller further told Tribune Business: “We have to make some changes and some major investments into Clifton. We are going to put a proposal before the Government very shortly. Once we get Clifton up to scratch we will see a reduction in light bills as much as 25 per cent.”
Addressing recent comments made by local manufacturers regarding high fuel costs and the need for an industrial rate, Mr Miller told Tribune Business: “I feel for the manufacturers. For years the manufacturers have been looking at these rates. BEC has the consumer rates for households and commercial rates.
“Unfortunately, in the Bahamas, unlike in places like Florida and elsewhere, they have commercial rates that are just much cheaper than the consumer rates. In Florida and elsewhere the more you use, the less you pay. In the Bahamas, due to the fact that we don’t have an abundance of excess electricity, we charge you a premium for using the excess demand. We are trying our best to bring the cost down straight across the board.”
The BEC chairman added: “We are trying to put a plan together now to get some things to work for us. Everyone is in the same boat. Those local manufacturers are no different than the hotels, who are also catching hell. Our main concern is those marginalised consumers who really have trouble paying a $200-$300 a month light bill.
“There has been a heavy spike in electricity for July, and people are complaining like hell and rightfully so. That spike is based on fuel costs; not for July but for May, because it takes about 60 days before it goes through the system and that’s what we have to be aware of.”
Mr Miller said that currently BEC has in excess of 5,000 customers in New Providence who have had their electricity supply disconnected.
“We would not want to see any Bahamian deprived of so so vital an entity such as electricity, especially in a summer as hot as this,” the BEC chairman said.
“We are implementing programmes to get all the lights here in New Providence turned on as soon as possible. If we can get Clifton running at its optimum you will see a reduction that will make all Bahamians happy; the industrial users, commercial users, but especially household users.”
Mr Miller said BEC was exploring every avenue to obtain cheaper fuel, telling Tribune Business: “We are not leaving any stone unturned. We are looking at a long-term contract with one of the oil producing countries that’s in our area, either Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela; wherever we can get the best price on behalf of the Bahamian people.”