REPORTING on Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) sometimes feels like being trapped in the movie Groundhog Day.
Let’s go through the checklist in today’s Tribune.
Customers left without power for hours? Check.
Senior officials talking about whether we have sufficient capacity to handle demand this summer? Check.
Oh, and what’s this? The possibility that our electric bills might go up? Check.
Last time there was talk of consumers paying more – back in March this year – was when BPL “prematurely” announced a proposed hike due to rising fuel prices.
That was swiftly stomped on by the government, with Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears saying that the government had not approved any increase, nor was it considering doing so.
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis swiftly following up to say his administration was committed to doing all it can to avoid “raising the cost of electricity” for Bahamians.
So outraged at the time was Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell that he said “heads must roll” over the announcement.
Yet here we are, just a few months later, with Bahamians sitting in the dark and the new head that has rolled into the job of chief executive officer, Shevonn Cambridge, saying a review is underway to determine whether there will be an increase to billing through a fuel charge adjustment.
He said: “Right now, there is a fixed fuel charge. There is a mechanism in place that allows for the adjustment of that fuel charge. We’re currently conducting an internal review to see if the necessary triggers or threshold have been reached that will require us to do that adjustment.
“Based on the current fuel prices, right, when it does come it will be up – it won’t be down. Exactly when that will occur, we’re not certain as yet. So, the prices have gone up, so obviously when we adjust more than likely the adjustment will be an upward adjustment.”
Now none of this is rocket science. Globally, fuel prices have gone up. You pay more to get the fuel, you have two choices – you pass the cost on to the customer or you try to swallow the cost yourself. The second choice is hardly going to last long before you’re losing money, and avoiding the first option might not even be legal anyway. So sooner or later, the customer is going to pick up the bill.
Politically, that’s unpopular, of course – we’ll see how Messrs Sears, Davis and Mitchell respond to the prospect of a rate rise this time round.
Still, at least Groundhog Day this time round doesn’t have the union warning that we will have issues ahead this summer… oh wait… Check.
While the CEO talks of having enough generation capacity, the union chief, Kyle Wilson, warns that the distribution network is the problem.
“We are trying to meet the demands but still the transmission and distribution system is a little antiquated and needs to be upgraded,” said Mr Wilson.
“We have 2002 engines, but we still have the same transmission and distribution system from like the 70s and 80s and so that means, in my opinion, a lot of focus needs to be placed on the transmission distribution system and we have to also look towards alternative forms.”
With the news that some maintenance is being pushed back beyond the summer because of cash issues, do you think we’ll be sorting out decades-old distribution issues in the next few weeks? No.
So get ready for a long, hot summer … that will also leave a hole in your pocket.