By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard has blasted what he called “protectionism and special interests” while urging Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) to effectively ‘bypass’ its current supplier, Shell West, and purchase its fuel directly from the United States.
Mr Maynard told Tribune Business yesterday: “We need to change the fuel. We need to stop this foolishness with buying fuel from Shell West. We need to buy fuel from America where it’s cheaper. All this protectionism and special interests needs to stop if we’re going to be serious. If not we can continue with this foolishness with everyone protecting their people.
“I have a serious problem with the fact that Jamaica, despite their issues, are ahead of us in electricity. Their plant - referring to the Bogue Power Plant in Montego Bay - is getting ready to go on-line in July with natural gas. That pisses me off. We are supposed to already have our natural gas plant. We need to get out of Shell West business.”
According to Mr Maynard, while the government has touted lower electricity bills due in large part to a decline in global oil prices, the cost of fuel could still be even lower. “Our oil prices could be much lower. The Americans are selling it cheaper. We need to use our connections. We could get it cheaper if we bought it directly from America and bypass Shell West. We need to get out of using automotive diesel oil (ADO), Bunker C and get with propane and eventually natural gas,” said Mr Maynard. Shell West is based in Barbados.
His comments came as BPL yesterday admitted that that it was still experiencing “a generation shortfall” following an island-wide power outage on Sunday.
In a statement BPL said continuing challenges in the system resulted in periods of supply interruption for 20 per cent of customers on Monday. BPL also admitted that its reserve supply was affected by a major cable failure and the present generation can only meet exiting demand – meaning there is no back up if one of the present engines were to fail.
Mr Maynard said: “We have no problem with generation. If an engine goes down however we are going to have a problem. As long as the engines are running we won’t have a problem. We have ancient equipment and we need to change it. I’ve always been consistent with what I have said. If we change the equipment, the fuel and upgrade the transmission and distribution system we will be fine. If we don’t do that we aren’t getting anywhere, we’re just joking.”
He acknowledged that BPL has to provide a swift solution to addressing the blackouts. “They have to do it almost right away. Bahamian people aren’t going to continue putting up with this nonsense. They want these issues to be done with. I’ve always said there is no quick fix to this thing but we need the equipment. Once we get the equipment we will be good to go.”