By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Harbour Island’s power outage woes have caused “extreme damage” to its reputation as a tourism idyll, Tribune Business was told yesterday, with resident businesses renewing demands for the island to have its own power plant.
Dr Leatendore Percentie, who operates the Tingum Village Guesthouse, said: “The power issue is destroying a lot of businesses. We all know that Harbour Island has some of the most elite visitors in the world who have many destinations to choose from.
“Even though many of them favour Harbour Island, we have lost business because they have gone elsewhere due to the inability of the island to give reliable service.
“A lot of the services are interconnected, such as Internet and water. The marinas all feed off of Bahamas Power and Light as well. When the electricity is off, a lot of the mega yachts will simply leave. Whenever things start happening there is a ripple effect throughout the community, the food stores, the hotels and the restaurants.”
Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) chief executive, Pam Hill, reportedly met with a small group of Harbour Island tourism and business stakeholders on Tuesday night, following an especially bad week for power outages and surges across Eleuthera.
While not commenting on the details of that meeting Dean Spychalla, vice-president and managing director of Valentine’s Residences Resort and Marina, told Tribune Business: “The impact on both the residents and hospitality sector of the island is extreme.
“It does extreme damage to the reputation of the island to have to continuously apologise to guests as to why there is no power and why they can’t take a shower. This has a major impact on all aspects of life on the island.”
The disruption issues has already had a significant impact on revenues in the hospitality sector, with some marina, home rental and hotel guests vowing never to return to Harbour Island.
BPL, in a statement on Tuesday, acknowledged that it was working to stabilise its network in Eleuthera following several system failures on Monday that lasted into Tuesday. The outages impacted its customers in north and rentral Eleuthera, Harbour Island and some parts of south Eleuthera, and resulted from challenges at the Rock Sound power station as well as the island’s main Hatchet Bay facility later that night.
“Some customers would have experienced outages lasting less than 20 minutes, while others would have endured much longer periods without supply,” BPL said. “BPL crews on the island have assessed that the main issues relate to separate generation stability problems at both power stations over the past 24 hours. Supply was fully restored to all areas before 5pm on Tuesday.”
Dr Percentie, though, added: “This is not helpful to the economy of Harbour Island. Harbour Island carries most of Eleuthera in terms of employment. Every day hundreds of persons come from the mainland to work on Harbour Island.
“Everyone knows what needs to be done, and despite promises the right thing is not done. Several years ago we built a multi-million dollar plant at Hatchet Bay, which was supposed to be the answer, but there are more problems transmitting electricity all the way from Hatchet Bay to Harbour Island.
“Harbour Island needs its own power plant if its tourism product is going to continue to develop and grow. I don’t think it’s a matter of financial costs because the money is here for them to make the power is reliable.”
One Eleuthera businessman told Tribune Business: “It’s just been a nightmare. I’m not so much worried about my business; we have generators. I’m thinking about the single mom with three kids who, once the power goes out, the milk is ruined and the meat in her freezer is ruined. That may be all she has and it’s not right.”