Businesses fear major loss from North Andros BPL fire


Tribune Business Reporter


Hundreds of North Andros businesses and visiting vendors were yesterday fearing they could suffer substantial losses after the area's entire power generation capacity was destroyed by an early morning fire.

The blaze at Bahamas Power & Light's (BPL) Nicholl's Town power station, which wrecked all the generation units, was especially ill-timed given that many businesses had stocked up - and were carrying excess inventory - in anticipation of increased sales at the upcoming Independence and regatta/homecoming weekend.

Darin Bethel, the North Andros Chamber of Commerce president, yesterday voiced concern that businesses without their own stand-by generators could incur significant losses from food and beverage inventory spoiling, and thus miss out on significant sales, after spending weeks preparing for the weekend's celebrations.

He told Tribune Business that the “vexing issues” with power generation in North Andros have been a concern for more than 20 years, and argued that the now-destroyed BPL power station needed to be replaced at least a decade ago.

“Governments have been putting this off and pushing it down the line, and last week there were calls for protests in the community against this because we were already experiencing some serious power outages. So it was obvious that this situation was going to get worse before it got better," he blasted.

“A lot of businesses had already begun taking steps and preparing for the long holiday weekend. I don’t know how they are going to be able to maintain their inventory over the next couple of days. So it’s going to be a lot of loss suffered from the business community because everybody is stock heavy now with inventory, expecting a weekend of activities and so forth."

BPL, in a statement, said it was moving as quickly as possible to install temporary generation capacity in North Andros ahead of the Independence weekend. It added that it is barging in a 1 Mega Watt (MW) generator and a 500 kilowatt generator, which will be “installed and online” by today. There are around 300 businesses and 1,000 residential customers in North Andros impacted by the fire and loss of power.

Robert Jones, owner/operator of Robby’s Beach Lodge, said that while he has a generator on-site, the issue still “affects” him because he has to travel to other locations on the island. The absence of electricity at these places makes it difficult to conduct business.

While voicing hope that BPL will send temporary generation capacity from Nassau, and that this will be installed soon, he rejected the notion that Central Andros’ power station could power North Andros. “I just don’t think Central Andros has the generators in place to run both Central and North Andros. But we were advised by BPL that they can have stand-by generators mobilised within 48 hours,” he said.

Mr Bethel, on the other hand, is a strong advocate for Central Andros’ power station being a permanent solution to North Andros’ power woes in the long-term. He said: “There was a plan a couple of years ago where the Government had connected North to Central, where Central Andros would have the capability to run power to North Andros for a situation like this.

“They were thinking primarily along the lines that if a hurricane would come and destroy the North’s station, or the station in Central, that either one could supply power to both sides. But because they have been running on low fumes, Central Andros does not have the capacity to carry the North because they don’t have the generators to operate.”

Another business owner, speaking under condition of anonymity, said of the blaze: “This is going to disrupt the entire Independence weekend. This is also a huge regatta weekend for the island, too, and now vendors will be at a loss without power to operate if BPL does not send help.

“There are hotels, and short-term vendors who will be making their way to the island just for this weekend. If there is no power then they would have wasted their time and hundreds of dollars.”


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