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Renewable Firm's 6-Fold Inquiries Increase Through Bec Blackouts

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s (BEC) frequent blackouts have resulted in increased business for some, one renewable energy provider yesterday revealing client inquiries had increased five-six fold in the last two months.

Guilden Gilbert, vice-president of Alternative Power Sources (APS) Bahamas, told Tribune Business that customer inquiries had increased from one-two per week to two-three per day as BEC’s summer outages took their toll.

“We’d be closed six deals within the past week,” Mr Gilbert said of the demand for APS’s various solar systems and products. “We’ve received deposits, or commitments that deposits are ready for collection.”

He added that APS had gained business from both residential and commercial clients, who wanted products ranging from LED lights to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems that would largely take their properties off the BEC grid,

“It’s definitely good to see people interested in it,” Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business. “With the slew of BEC blackouts, that’s driven a lot of people to move to energy independence.

“It’s more energy independence than cost savings. Cost savings is just a by-product. Most people are looking at energy independence, and moving away from fossil fuels.”

The APS executive agreed that BEC’s failure to provide reliable, consistent energy supply, with some blackouts lasting eight hours and for whole nights, had “spurred quite a bit of interest” in renewable energy.

“We’ve seen a big uptick in inquiries,” Mr Gilbert reiterated. “A couple of months ago we were probably seeing one to two inquiries per week, maybe every other week.

“But in the last two months, we’ve seen anywhere from two-three inquiries on a daily basis. I think it’s driven by BEC and by the inconsistency of service.

“People want energy independence. They don’t want to come home to a dark home.”

Mr Gilbert, who is also president of the Bahamas Renewable Energy Association, acknowledged that the cost of renewable energy systems and products remained prohibitive for many.

While this, combined with the absence of legislation, regulations and policy to facilitate the sector’s development, had held it back, Mr Gilbert said APS’s tie-up with Commonwealth Bank, where the latter provides clients with financing, was designed to overcome this obstacle.

“Our goal is not to get rid of BEC,” Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business. “Ultimately, we’d like to work hand-in-hand with BEC to stabilise the energy sector. There will always be a need for BEC.”

He added that the renewable energy industry was “a step further” than persons who currently possessed a stand-by generator for when BEC service was lost.

Its products, such as solar PV systems, had the ability to become an individual home or business’s primary power energy source and tie back into the BEC grid, although no power is currently sent back to the latter.

“I would like to see the sector properly and prudently regulated,” Mr Gilbert told Tribune Business. “The installation companies should be properly licensed as installers, and ultimately BEC and the Ministry of Works come in and inspect systems before they are commissioned.

“This is not something where we’re working against BEC; we’d like to work hand in hand.”

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