By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Power and Light’s $95m, 130 megawatt power plant has been brought online in time for its December 15 deadline, the company said yesterday.
The plant at Station A of BPL’s Clifton Pier Power Station features seven Wartsila 50DF tri-fuel engines that are burning light fuel oil but have the capacity to burn natural gas or heavy fuel oil. BPL chairman Dr Donovan Moxey said in a statement: “The advent of the new power plant at Station A is exciting for us at BPL. It marks the first milestone on our strategic turnaround plan for our national utility and it means we are close to bringing an end to load-shedding. We are excited to usher in a new age of reliable energy production at BPL and the first phase of lowering our fuel costs and bringing Bahamians the reliable, affordable and safe power they deserve.”
BPL faced one of its most challenging summers this year. Its load-shedding programme frequently knocked out customers’ power for hours at a time.
That scheduled load-shedding ended several weeks ago. Dr Moxey said the new plant was officially handed over to BPL yesterday, though Wartsila will continue to manage and operate the plant.
BPL CEO Whitney Heastie said: “This is a critical accomplishment for us. We have been working miracles to keep a severely debilitated generation fleet online, plagued by old machines that have—for various reasons—not been maintained as well as they could have been, and also by a growing demand for electricity that has taxed our ability to supply. Now, with the replacement power out at Clifton Pier, we can shift our caseload generation—that is, the first power to the grid and the foundation of our power supply—to Station A, which means we’re burning cheaper, more efficient fuel with more reliable engines first. Our customers will see the difference.”
Station A will cause increased reliability, lower electricity costs, increased energy and price security, lower fuel charge on monthly billing and “possession of sufficient generating assets to finally close the chapter on rental generation on New Providence,” BPL’s statement said. Officials have not specified when the savings will be felt by residents and businesses.
Customers’ BPL bills are expected to increase by $20 to $30 for ten months in 2020 as a result of the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Act, recently passed in the Senate. This legislation comes as a bail-out to “cash strapped” BPL for the refinancing of some $650 million necessary to repay debt owed to local banks amounting to $320 million and for desperate upgrades.
The company decided to build the new plant after a fire took out some of its major assets in September, 2018.