Editorial: Is There Really Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

AT long last, the so-called temporary measure of renting generators to supplement the power output at Bahamas Power and Light may be coming to an end.

Rental units have long been in use – dating back eight years to 2011 – and it wasn’t a one-off decision to use them then. Three years ago, then Deputy Prime Minister – now Leader of the Opposition – Phillip “Brave” Davis announced the arrival of a series of new generators to add 80MW of power supply, with the first set arriving in August 2016.

At the time, the arrival of the generators was hailed as meaning an end to load shedding. We know how that ended.

Yesterday, current BPL CEO Whitney Heastie was banging the same drum, promising reliability of the power supply. Given the frequency the power has had interruptions in the past couple of weeks alone, we’ll believe that one when we see it.

Mr Heastie has, however, signaled a change – with an end to the usage of the previous rental generators and the start of a little more long-term thinking with the installation of a $95m electricity plant at Clifton Pier.

We welcome this move – with a caveat or two, which we shall come to shortly – and sincerely hope that for the sake of residents and businesses alike we can reach a day where a power outage is greeted with surprise rather than with a roll of the eyes and a sigh of “Again?”

Because of how used we are to power interruptions, we perhaps underestimate how much of a drag such unreliability has on the economy. Meetings are missed, production interrupted, new investors count it as a strike against choosing The Bahamas as a location for their projects, residents spend on generators and oil instead of investing their money in more advantageous ways… could we perhaps be on the way to an end to such hindrances?

It is also particularly encouraging to see the beginning of a more long-term approach at BPL rather than the short-term, high-cost approach of renting generators.

Those caveats, though, are large enough to prevent an unreserved welcome for the move.

First of all, Mr Heastie could be more forthcoming about how BPL is paying for the new plant – instead of brushing aside such questions by not wanting to get into details. Why not? Is the money coming from the public purse? Or customers’ pockets? Either way, why not be up front with those whose money will ultimately pay for the scheme.

Secondly, the details of the fires which affected BPL still remain vague – a full breakdown of the causes of the fires, the cost to the company and how it might affect the need for new equipment would not go amiss. It does feel, if you’ll pardon the expression, as if BPL is deliberately keeping us in the dark on the matter.

Finally, there is one other item of concern in Mr Heastie’s announcement – when he notes that BPL has no employees who can understand the type of engine being brought in or who is skilled in electro-mechanical engineering.

So… who fixes it if it has a problem?

As well as investing in new equipment, it sounds like BPL needs to invest in new skills too. Now.

We’re pretty sure union bosses will be asking the same question.


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