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Exuma, Abaco Still Blighted By Power Cuts

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Chester Cooper

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

EXUMA and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper has called the frequent power outages affecting Exuma, an “untenable” situation that is frustrating both residents and visitors.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) member said Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) “has failed to keep the lights on in the height of summer and a peak business season for tourism”.

“The constant power outages in Exuma are impeding growth and investment on the island, stifling our tourism product and reducing the quality of life for residents of Exuma,” Mr Cooper noted in a statement released on Monday. “Little Exuma, for example, was without power from 10am Wednesday past well into the night. The situation is untenable,” he said.

“I have so far been unable to get a clear explanation of why this is happening and a long-term plan by BPL to resolve the issue, nor a plan to resolve the chronic street light outages.

“This is simply unacceptable. I call on the management and board of BPL to examine on an urgent basis the constant power outages with a view to bringing immediate relief to our citizens and guests.

“Further, I call on the government to articulate its national energy policy, inclusive of improving reliability, reducing costs, creating incentives for renewable energy and reverse metering.”

His statement came days after BPL said a recent wave of power outages in Abaco were the result of “a series of tests” at BPL’s Wilson City Power Station.

BPL, in a statement on Friday, said it was “necessary” to conduct the tests as it seeks to “improve our reliability and system stability”.

BPL acknowledged those tests resulted in “a number of repeated power outages on the island over the past ten days”.

The statement by BPL came just days after one hotelier told The Tribune that the repeated outages have turned potential Abaco visitors away.

Molly McIntosh, general manager of the Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina, said while the situation has become better since the July 7 holiday weekend, the power was “still going off for an hour or so every other day”.

Additionally, one visitor, after seeing The Tribune’s articles online, contacted this newspaper and complained that the outages were the worst his family had seen since visiting the Abacos from the early 1970s.

BPL, in a statement last month, acknowledged it was having challenges with its generation and distribution network in Abaco, adding that copper theft continues to be a “significant problem” responsible for a number of prolonged outages.

The company said it was working constantly to resolve issues responsible for the recent periods of supply interruption.

“BPL sincerely apologises to its customers for the inconvenience caused during this time and remains committed to the continuous improvement of service to the island,” said BPL’s statement on Friday.

Last month, BPL blamed “copper theft” and “distribution challenges” for the constant power outages that have plagued Abaco.

At the time, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard called the frequent power outages in Abaco “disgraceful” and “unacceptable.” He urged BPL to “overhaul the island’s protection system,” which he claimed has not been upgraded in 25 years.

Abaco residents also expressed their disgust on BPL’s Facebook page, with some persons calling for a march to Parliament against the company.

Earlier this summer, Works Minister Desmond Bannister said he has “serious concerns” with BPL’s ability to “keep the lights on this summer.”

At the time, Mr Bannister said he is already “looking to find new, alternative ways”, including solar, to produce energy.

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