By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE Prime Minister Perry Christie’s recent pronouncements that he plans to launch a probe into Bahamas Power and Light’s inability to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to consumers, Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney has issued a staunch rebuke of the move, calling it “too little, too late”.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Mr McCartney took issue with Mr Christie’s claims, questioning why it has taken the Centreville MP more than four years in office to notice the “consistent challenges” faced by the government owned power company.
The former Bamboo Town MP called it “interesting” that the prime minister was only now concerned, saying that Mr Christie was only attempting to “commiserate” with the Bahamian public as the 2017 election approaches.
On Monday, Mr Christie suggested that the latest mass disruption had brought the government embarrassment as it took place the day before the opening ceremony of an international civil aviation conference. He later noted that the incident was too “catastrophic” and “unusual” to let it pass without the “highest investigation”.
He also said Sunday’s island-wide blackout could have been the result of “human error.”
Addressing this statement yesterday, Mr McCartney said he was puzzled by the prime minister’s outrage, insisting that BPL’s inability to keep the lights on were indicative of the years of mismanagement of the company by Mr Christie’s current administration and earlier administrations.
Mr McCartney stated that for years, electricity consumers have had to deal with “woefully unreliable” services which have been underscored by well documented equipment failures, mounting financial issues, island-wide blackouts and rolling outages - all while successive governments did nothing.
“Despite an initially glowing endorsement from the Christie administration, the company has been unable to provide the promised relief and reliability of service and furthermore, their promised business plan, meant to be a roadmap out of our current energy crisis remains a well-guarded government secret,” noted Mr McCartney in his release.
He continued: “Only now, years after initially announcing plans for energy sector reform, is the PM concerned enough to seek out answers from BPL. Only now, with months to go before a general election, is Mr Christie apparently frustrated and distressed by the poor performance of the company which his government sought out and paid millions to ensure that those reforms take place.
“His comments which are clearly an attempt to commiserate with the Bahamian public as we approach another election cycle, proving yet again that Mr Christie and his government will always be too little, too late in addressing the pressing needs of our country.
“While the DNA has absolutely no confidence that the promised investigations into BPL will yield any results if it in fact takes place at all, perhaps such a probe would best be suited to finally uncovering the details of the power company’s business plan.
“Even more disappointing has been the reaction of our elected officials who are not only late again regarding the needs of the energy sector, but who seem unable to speak with one voice on the issues facing BPL.
“While Mr Christie on one hand lamented his apparent frustrations with the most recent round of outages, the DPM (Philip Davis) was elsewhere praising the company and expressing faith in their ability. How can this administration be trusted to make good decisions about the country’s energy future when they seem not to be communicating at all regarding the company responsible for managing such critical infrastructure?”
Around 2pm on Sunday, New Providence was plagued by a power cut. When The Tribune spoke to President of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union Paul Maynard around 4.30pm, he indicated that the company “had no idea” what caused the problem.
BPL posted updates about the blackout on its Facebook page.
Around 4pm, the company said BPL said teams were working to restart engines and eventually begin restoring power to customers.
Subsequently, at around 7.30pm, BPL said it had started restoring power to some areas as it asked for patience, saying the process would be a slow one.
There have been three blackouts and frequent disruptions in supply for several days. Sunday’s outage followed a weekend of power issues as residents complained of intermittent outages on Friday and Saturday.
Last Thursday, BPL blamed a “damaged underground cable” for blackouts on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Reflecting on these recent occurrences, Mr McCartney said the country now needed a real plan, one designed to reduce the cost of electricity, improve reliability and introduce renewable and green energy solutions.
In April 2015, the DNA proposed its $1 billion energy plan, which would see power provided to the Bahamas by a Florida power plant via a submarine electrical cable running from a Florida electrical grid to Clifton Pier.
When introduced, the party said the project would take about two years to complete and would transform electricity provision in the country.
The government signed a five-year agreement with PowerSecure in February to manage the Bahamas Electricity Corporation which was later renamed BPL.