By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) will move “aggressively” to return its Clifton Pier power plant to 80 per cent capacity by summer 2019, in a bid to relieve consumers from increased fuel costs.
Whitney Heastie, the state-owned utility’s chief executive, told Tribune Business that its primary generation station is currently producing just 37-44 percent of its potential 135 Mega Watt (MW) output from units still in their “useful life”.
This has left BPL in an ‘upside down’ position, where it is having to consistently run the 180 MW Blue Hills plant at or near capacity to cope with New Providence’s peak summer demand of 240 MW.
And, with Blue Hills operating off more expensive diesel fuel, Mr Heastie conceded that fuel costs - which are 100 percent passed through to BPL customers in their electricity bills - have been “negatively impacted”.
With electricity bills higher-than-normal in the already-expensive summer months, the BPL chief said: “Today, we do have sufficient generation on the ground to safely, reliably provide power to New Providence.
“The challenge we have is Clifton Pier is not performing the way it should be performing. The question is how we can go about getting the assets to where they can be, and performing at the level they should be.”
Mr Heastie added: “That’s an evaluation we’re undertaking right now. I certainly feel confident, based on my experience, that we can get Clifton Pier to put out 80 percent of its rated capacity on the ‘B’ and ‘C’ stations.
“At Clifton Pier today there’s about 135 MW of good assets available to us. Today we’re running between 50-60 MW on a good day. We’re running Blue Hills hard every day, especially at this time of year.”
Mr Heastie said BPL’s reliance on Blue Hills for almost three-quarters of its New Providence generation capacity meant that fuel consumption was split 70/30 in its favour, when this ratio should be the other way around to minimise costs to businesses and households.
“It really should be the other way around,” he confirmed to Tribune Business. “Clifton Pier should be the base, and Blue Hills the peak. We have to quickly turn that situation around.
“We’re going to work aggressively, and by next summer I anticipate we will have Clifton Pier back to 80 percent capacity. We’re putting plans in place to see if we can get there and be reliable.”