Former BEC chairman Leslie Miller speaking to the media.
By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
A FORMER Bahamas Electricity Corporation chairman yesterday slammed the government's decision to hire a six-man team of American specialists to address the power generation issues at Bahamas Power and Light.
Leslie Miller, a former MP and Cabinet minister, said the government's decision to bring in specialists from the United States "made no sense."
Mr Miller explained: "The engines are European made engines; they're not American engines, so those guys only came for a trip to look around. That's all they came for, that's the facts. We have to get it right.
"Nothing like this could have happened under the watch of Mr Davis who is in charge," he said, referring to former Minister of Works Philip Davis. "He would have not allowed it to happen because the first thing he would have said was 'Leslie get the team, get the guys out of Europe, come here immediately and let's get these engines back up and running.' That's what you do and that's what he did."
He added: "He told them from the beginning get Clifton right and we did for $15m to $20m and you all can speak for yourself. You had little problems after we been there for about six months - little problems. That was because the minister made us do what was necessary. He gave us the funding to get it done and that's what you have to do as a government."
When asked what he would have done to resolve the problem, Mr Miller said: "Start off where the problem started get you two engines fixed."
"That's going to give you 63 megawatts of power that was necessary and if you follow the plan that the minister left in place with the 120 megawatts of power and had followed the plan with the LNG terminal that we was going to be put out at Arawak Cay this problem would have been solved.
"These guys had two and a half years to do this you know but what happened the first board something went wrong with who they wanted to pick; you got rid of that board and so you are starting from scratch. It's the lack continuity to get things done properly."
He also expressed concern the government will borrow unnecessary money to prop up BPL.
"The minister of finance say they would spare no money, so he gone go crazy now, go borrow one $100m from the IDB which is right here in Nassau, do away with all our money that is not necessary," he speculated. "That's what gone happen now because they are panicking, don't panic. Get the engines fixed, get the guys from Europe and the Dominican Republic who we always get."
Finance Minister Peter Turnquest has not given a figure for possible borrowing to find a short-term fix for BPL's problems. A new $95 power plant is expected to come on stream in December.
BPL has been load shedding since June 19 and officials have said the problem could persist into the fall months.
However power generation issues have plagued BPL - a subsidiary of BEC - for decades. Load shedding and power cuts were a vexing concern during the last Christie administration, when Mr Miller served as executive chairman of BEC. However the Progressive Liberal Party has maintained it had plans in place for long-term solutions and has accused the Minnis administration of not following them.
Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis expressed deep unhappiness with the state of power generation in New Providence, calling it unacceptable.
He revealed that BPL officials briefed Cabinet about its short-term plan to provide relief to residents and businesses. That plan includes returning to service an additional nine megawatts of power from BPL's Aggreko units, he said.
He added: "A six-man team of specialists from Philadelphia Gear is here on New Providence. The team has started working with the intention of returning an additional 20 megawatts of power to service at the Baillou Hills Power Plant. For context, BPL's peak demand is 250 megawatts and is currently experiencing a 40-megawatt shortfall. BPL will notify the public as additional generation capacity is operational."