By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
SINCE announcing it would resume customer disconnections back in July, Bahamas Power and Light has turned off 8,741 residential accounts in New Providence and the Family Islands.
According to BPL’s Public Relations Director Quincy Parker, the company began those disconnections on July 1.
Since then, 369 customers signed up for payment plans.
BPL said it has no plans to ramp up disconnections, however 9,262 customer accounts still face being shut off for non-payment — that is 7,068 residential and 2,194 commercial customers.
These figures come after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told Parliament on Wednesday that BPL’s leadership had been successful in reducing the electricity rate by 30 percent.
Dr Minnis also praised the company’s leadership for a summer free of load shedding.
While this may have been the case, customers still had to weather dozens of service disruptions this summer for various reasons.
Dr Minnis told Parliament: “… All Bahamians would remember last year what we went through during the summer with load shedding.
“BPL under the leadership of our Minister of Works (Desmond Bannister) and chairman Donovan (Moxey) and leadership Whitney Heastie have succeeded in eradicating load shedding.
“We’ve had no load shedding this summer and in fact many of us have not even recognised that we’ve gone through the summer period (with) no load shedding.
“There were many complaints also about the cost of electricity. I am happy to announce that that team and BPL again were successful in decreasing the electricity rate.
“Now, you will still hear individuals’ bills are lower than previously, but still high, but why is that so? Because we are still affected by the pandemic (and) most of our kids and others are staying indoors utilising more air condition(ing).”
Back in July, Tribune Business reported that less than one percent of the 16,000 BPL customers threatened with disconnection had yet to pay off their arrears or agree to a payment plan.
At the time Mr Parker confirmed in an e-mailed response that just 78 clients had visited BPL and agreed payment plans across all three categories facing loss of their electricity services.
He confirmed then that disconnections had already started for customers who were $500 or more in arrears, and 90 days past due, prior to April 1 and the full onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic plus associated lockdown.
“Disconnections began on July 6,” he said at the time. “[There were] 362 total up to Friday, July 17. Across all three categories, 78 persons have come in and made payment plans.”
The reference to “three categories” reflects that BPL has segmented its delinquent customers into three groups.
Besides those who were $500-plus in arrears for 90 days or more pre-April 1, there is also the group who accumulated the same level of debt during the three-month COVID-19 lockdown which occurred during the first wave of the disease. The final category consists of customers who have applied, and were approved, for the three-month BPL bill deferral programme implemented at the government’s request.