By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A small business advocate has voiced concern that last Wednesday's power outage, which hit multiple areas of New Providence, is "the end and not the beginning" of any summer woes for Bahamas Power & Light (BPL).
Mark A Turnquest, head of the fledgling 242 Small Business Association and Resource Centre, and a consultant to the sector, told Tribune Business in a recent interview that the state-owned utility monopoly has not negatively impacted entrepreneurs to the extent it did three years ago with daily rolling outages and blackouts.
"BPL has not significantly impacted small businesses in the country this year," he said. "My members and clients are very close to it. The outage on Wednesday morning, hopefully that will be the first and last to occur, but BPL has not behaved badly this summer in terms of impacting the country and business community.
"We can excuse BPL for Wednesday morning, but we hope this will be the end and not the beginning. We don't need BPL to start these island-wide blackouts. This year has not been horrible like three to four years ago. We are also monitoring it because we are feeling a slight rise in electricity bills, and need to look at that to see why it's occurring, especially businesses that are selling beverages. They are feeling the pinch from elevated costs in their light bill."
The Government has, for the moment, kept rates consistent by subsidising BPL's fuel charge, holding it at around 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) and making electricity essentially a volume business where customers can control the cost by monitoring consumption. Mr Turnquest, though, encouraged it to increase the use of solar and other renewable technologies via the provision of tax breaks and other incentives.
BPL last Wednesday blamed outside “interference” for an hours-long power outage that impacted much of New Providence and cost many businesses valuable sales and income
Brent Burrows, CBS Bahamas (Commonwealth Building Supplies) chief, told Tribune Business his decision to work from home could not have been worse as his electricity supply was interrupted for almost half the day. “I’m working from home today and I’ve been severely affected because I can’t do anything,” he said.
“This is 2022 and it’s incredible that we can’t keep the lights on. This is just incredible. You would think that at this time in our country’s development that we can have dependable power.”
CBS’ physical store in Carmichael Road’s Southwest Plaza, in common with many companies, retail and office complexes, has long employed back-up generators that automatically kick-in due to the constant interruptions in BPL’s electricity supply that were a regular occurrence prior to the purchase and installation of new generation capacity at the Clifton Pier power plant under the former administration.
Supplemented by rental generation, the daily widespread blackouts and load sheddings endured during the summers of 2018 and 2019 have reduced in both frequency and duration since. Last Wednesday's outage, which lasted for several hours, was among the longest in recent months, and all businesses without back-up generator supply will have been impacted through loss of sales and customers as a result.
The partial island-wide black out affecting multiple corridors and areas in New Providence. BPL’s Whats App Group reported that Market Street North to Bay Street; Fort Charlotte; Blue Hill Road North and south of Soldier Road; Ernest Street; East Street South; Collins Avenue; Wulff Road; eastern New Providence in its entirety; and Paradise Island east were all without power for at least two full hours.
A BPL spokesperson, in response to Tribune Business inquiries, said the outages resulted from “third party interference where a truck ran into a cable line, which caused the line to bounce and ricochet against the power lines, which resulted in a fire on the line”. This caused BPL to “initiate a protective system shutdown”, resulting in yesterday’s partial blackout.