By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT – The Coalition for Concerned Citizens secured more than 1,000 signatures during their ‘Lower the Cost of Power’ rally and petition drive.
Grand Bahama residents gathered outside the KFC location on Pioneer’s Way, just across the street from the Grand Bahama Power Company Headquarters.
Pastor Eddie Victor, convener of CCC, said it was the first of many rallies that will be held on Grand Bahama, where the cost of power has been an ongoing issue for consumers.
“It is important for us to get the message out to the people and get the support we need to be effective, as we fight to lower the cost of electricity on this island,” he said.
Pastor Victor said that the Bahamian dream is being threatened, particularly on Grand Bahama.
He stressed that Grand Bahama Power Company, which is the sole provider of electricity, has a responsibility to provide reliable service at affordable rates.
“When you have a monopoly, you have a greater responsibility to consumers,” he said.
There are some 18,000 consumers on the island. GBPC, in a statement issued yesterday, said the power rates in Grand Bahama remain the lowest in the region.
However, Engineer Roger Johnson, a retired Power Company executive, claims there is evidence to prove the power rates have increased significantly since 2012 under the new tariff structure.
And, Mr Johnson noted that other Caribbean countries, with the exception of Trinidad, have to pay taxes – but Freeport is a free tax zone.
“It is laughable that they are saying they are very near the bottom in electricity charges for energy when we don’t pay taxes in Freeport,” he said.
Mr Johnson believes that the boycotts will have an impact.
He said everyone – residential, commercial and industrial consumers – needs to come on board and realise that they can help each other.
Pastor Victor said the CCC plans to implement blackouts by asking consumers to turn off their electricity for 24 hours.
“Boycotts have proven to be an effective tool around the world, and our focus is going to be on blackouts. We will ask people to shut down their power for the day, and for businesses to use their generators,” he said.
Mr Victor said they will also be calling for people not to go in and pay their bills on that day.
“Businesses have contacted us and said they are ready, and we are convinced that there are enough people on board to do it when we make that call,” he said.
The CCC is seeking to secure 10,000 signatures, which will be submitted to the Power Company, the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the regulators of Freeport, and to the government.
In the petition, they are asking for several things, including the immediate revision of the tariff structure to reduce electricity rates and fuel surcharge costs; for consumers to be allowed to install solar energy systems; and for a 10 megawatt solar plant to be connected to the Island Power Grid.