By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts questioned whether Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has a sustainable energy reform plan for the country, saying with three weeks until the 2017 general election, the FNM is unable to offer viable alternatives to the “firm and solid” foundation already established by the government.
Mr Roberts said while the FNM has adopted the campaign slogan “It’s The People’s Time” the party has only “bitched” and “moaned” about every PLP policy decision designed to bring relief to thousands of Bahamian families.
Discourse on energy reform in the country was reignited last week after the PLP said if it were re-elected to government it planned to “make the cost of electricity free to residential customers who limit their monthly use to below specified limits.”
However, on the sidelines of the FNM’s mass rally in North Andros on Tuesday night, Dr Minnis reject this, saying the PLP would promise anything just to win an election. He told The Tribune that this plan would mimic that of the PLP’s mortgage relief programme, which initially failed because it did not affect many distressed homeowners. When it was relaunched later this term, the initiative assisted around 350 people.
“The real question for Dr Minnis regarding the 15 per cent to 20 per cent of BPL customers whose electricity supplies are frequently off is what is the plan of the FNM for these Bahamians?
“Since the FNM has no plan, thousands of Bahamians could expect to remain in darkness if Minnis and the FNM have their way,” Mr Roberts said in a press statement, which was released on Tuesday.
“The PLP has a plan to bring relief to these Bahamians. Minnis is advised that attacking the policies of the PLP is not a plan to move Bahamians forward together.
“A second question for Minnis is, where is the FNM’s plan to encourage energy conservation? Under the PLP’s energy conservation plan, any BPL customer who can keep their electricity cost to within $50 per month can qualify for government subvention. The Bahamas is a flat country and vulnerable to climate change and global warming so this policy has tremendous social and environmental benefits.
“Further, and for the edification of Dr Minnis, BPL, through its partnerships with other government and regulatory agencies, has completed the framework for the programme that will allow customers with stand-alone solar and wind generation systems to apply for grid interconnection.”
He added: “This programme will allow BPL’s customers ‘greater autonomy in controlling individual energy costs’ as well as increasing energy availability in the country. The Small Scale Renewable Generation Programme serves as an essential first phase in BPL’s plan to incorporate renewables in its generation mix, and to serve as a key partner in reducing the country’s overall carbon footprint.’”
Mr Roberts said there was no need for Dr Minnis to tell “untruths” for political reasons. He said the PLP promised lower electricity rates and energy reform through alternative energy and were delivering on these campaign promises.
“We promised a Ministry for Grand Bahama; we promised tax reform, a new university, mortgage relief, food security - BAMSI - and we promised to see Baha Mar through after its unfortunate bankruptcy and on each of these promises and commitments the PLP government made to the Bahamian people, the Christie administration has diligently pursued it with tangible and qualified successes,” he said.
“We have made progress and laid a firm and solid foundation, but our work is not finished. We know we have not touched every Bahamian so we ask Bahamians to join us in moving all Bahamians forward together.”
In an interview with this newspaper, Dr Minnis castigated the PLP for making public its electricity plan in the absence of consultation with Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd (BPL).
On the same day the report was published in The Tribune, BPL released a statement saying the information contained in the story was “unknown” to the company.
Dr Minnis said: “The PLP has made many promises and they have demonstrated to us that they are a party that would do anything and would promise anything just to win an election. They know why it is so essential for them to resort to this because they know the damage that they have done to this country and we will search and we will uncover these damages and we will allow the chips to fall where they may.
“They did not even discuss this with BPL, so it clearly demonstrates that it is a promise that they know they have no intentions of bringing forth just like the mortgage relief. That was just a promise to lure people in because they knew people were suffering.”
According to the FNM’s manifesto, which is published on the party’s website, if the party is elected to office it plans to privatise BPL to ensure Bahamian ownership through majority shareholding.
The party also plans to provide incentives and tax concessions to local private companies for the production and supply of alternate fuel sources including: waste-to-energy, biodiesel, methane, LNG and wind and solar energy in New Providence as well as the Family Islands.
The FNM’s plan for energy reform also includes pre-paid “smart metering”, the creation of a renewable energy economy and the modernisation of electricity generation to reduce the cost of electricity to consumers.