Our power company must be “going green.” They heard the concept of Earth Hour, where businesses and households take an hour every year to turn off their lights to conserve energy and preserve the planet, and thought, “Hey, why don’t we do that every day?”
Yes, I know this isn’t a new issue. But with a new $100 million power plant (its location is a conversation for another time) and a couple years now to work out the bugs and kinks in the system; the issue is more baffling now than ever.
But maybe our government is busy working on other things for us and doesn’t have time to properly address what many consider the somewhat important act of electrifying the third largest economy in the country.
New road construction has seemingly halted and the Ministry of Works is apparently content paying their Abaco staff to sit around and watch holes grow. So that rules out this bit of vital infrastructure.
The airport is only a few “deadlines” away from being pushed into next budget-year. So we’re currently denied new air travel.
If they don’t come by plane they come by boat. And after the unannounced fee-hike and immediate reduction on cruising permits earlier this year, yachters are thinking twice before making their travel plans to our islands. We have a lot of things going for us: natural beauty, great people and a relaxing atmosphere. But we can’t deny that it is very expensive to come here. And those who do come don’t mind for the most part, but they do mind being jerked around.
So unless Tourism makes some big marketing pushes to smooth things over, we have lost quite a few big spenders.
At least, you would think if we can’t have any of that stuff we can at least focus on making sure we have consistent electricity feeding our marinas, businesses and homes. We certainly pay enough for those kilowatts. And in a misguided attempt to protect BEC’s profits (which if they generated as often as they have black outs I would invest every penny) generating our own power with solar panels is illegal in this country.
Sometimes the power outages are understandable. Barges and reckless anchors cut through underwater cables, hurricanes and storms snap poles and trees alike, and copper thieves would rather make a quick buck by stripping grounding wire than having lights that night. We live on a spread out island. The system is old and regular maintenance is never possible because they have to put out one fire after another. Not to mention it is incredibly expensive to maintain power plants on each main island in our archipelago. For comparison Jamaica, with a little under 10 times our population, only has to manage four main power plants.
And it is hard to blame the ground soldiers here on Abaco. Whenever we are unfortunate enough to suffer a hurricane they get to work quickly and get things up and running surprisingly swiftly. No one can deny that or take it from them. For that we are grateful.
But management from one administration to the next is too busy playing a game of political chess to care that the generators have run out of oil and multi-million dollar machines are burning up. And attention given to one scandal after the next (looking at you, double-dippers) draws it away from the fact that many tourists won’t return again because during their week here they couldn’t even string two nights together that they could sleep in air conditioning or read at night.
So next time you pick up your monthly bill and realize it costs the same as a trip to Florida, sit down and write a letter to your Member of Parliament and the Ministries responsible. Tell them there is a difference between a high cost of living and having to take out a loan because that mysterious “Fuel Surcharge” jumped by $300 from one month to the next.
But if the outages continue you may have to write to them by hand with candlelight.