By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Power & Light’s top executive said yesterday he envisages at least five islands operating as “stand-alone” operations, describing such a move as ‘healthy’ for the utility.
Speaking to Tribune Business yesterday during a brief assessment of the company’s Abaco operations, BPL CEO Whitney Heastie said: “Today everything is consolidated, financially and even non-financially such as the procurement of goods and materials. The majority of it comes to New Providence and is then disseminated. That adds a cost to the company.”
“There are at least five islands that we deem major operations, inclusive of Abaco, Bimini, Eleuthera, Exuma and New Providence. Those islands we see as having the ability to stand alone, have their own financials, their own operations and the ability to make decisions locally so that at the end of the day their success or lack thereof is dependent on themselves. New Providence should be there as a support mechanism.”
Mr Heastie said he envisages such a model as the ‘future’ for the company.
“With that model we see that as the future,” he said.
“When things tend to start to fail in one of these islands you could then, by having your own books, look from a financial and operational perspective and see where it is failing and how to provide support. I think at the end of the day it is healthy for the overall company. Every tub has to sit on its own bottom. That’s the approach I want us to go to and I think that at the end of the day it will be healthy overall not only for the company but for residents of the Bahamas.”
Since taking the helm at BPL Mr Heastie has been determined that his executive team join him in a commitment to ‘changing the way we do business’.
In Abaco the results of that new philosophy have already begun deliver to with the local operation power credited for a ‘noticeable’ improvement in its Abaco service in recent months.
Joe Macellan, BPL’s director of operations on Abaco told Tribune Business yesterday the utility company had undertaken several initiatives to improve its overall service to its roughly 8,900 customers in the Abacos. Back in February the Abacos suffered a weekend-long power outage as a result of a blown pump. The prolonged outage was said to have caused “havoc” for Abaco and its tourist economy.
“It’s a work in progress for sure. There were a lot of initiatives taken as a result of those power outages. We were able to get some of the equipment in place and just started to change the way we do business, in transmission and distribution and in our internal operations,” said Macellan.
The BPL executive said the company was also taking steps to improve training, maintenance, staff safety and its communications.
James Albury, MP for South and Central Abaco told Tribune Business: “I think most people would agree that there is still a ways to go, outages happen but if we’re being objective things have been better this summer, generally speaking.”
Last summer, Abaco resorts blamed frequent power outages for having “really put a damper” on the summer holiday period, with many frustrated guests having vowed to never return.
“Generally speaking, the power has been on a lot more and even restoration times are much quicker. Last summer we have major challenges, with island wide outages taking everything out of commission. Most people can say they have noticed an improvement in service from BPL. I do believe that we have the leadership and technical know-how on the ground to keep pushing us forward and rectify the issues,” Albury added.
Bruce Missick, acting foreman for underground and maintenance, told Tribune Business: “This is probably one of the best summers we have had as far as electricity is concerned. A lot of the changes here have been centred around safety. Last year, if something major happened it would take the entire island offline. That is not the case anymore. We had a lot of protection issues in the past. A lot of that has been rectified. We still have a lot to do but we are moving in the right direction. We still have some really old cables in the cays and we’re trying to rectify those.”
Time will tell if Heastie’s cultural revolution in the management of BPL delivers the reward both he and his customers yearn for.