As reported in the last issue of The Abaconian, Bahamas Power & Light conducted their planned “series of tests” at its Wilson City Power Station during several days starting July 25 through August 4. For residents, the tests resulted in hours of repeated power outages across the island.
The island’s power struggles have had a direct impact on the tourism industry this summer. Resorts and rental properties across Abaco have lost out as many visitors have cut their vacations short or cancelled their reservations. This has dampened an otherwise strong summer for Abaco and its cays – especially Green Turtle Cay which, by most accounts, has been the most aggrieved by power cuts.
Letters to The Abaconian, and monitoring of social media, reveal frustration by locals, tourists and second-homeowners alike regarding the power outages and brown-outs, which are responsible for many Abaconians losing appliances to electrical surges.
The late-July / early-August “tests” were required, according to BPL, to “improve our reliability and system stability.”
Official statements from BPL pin the island’s power supply problem on theft of copper grounding wire and challenges to the distribution system.
In a statement BPL apologized to its customers “for the inconvenience caused during this time and remains committed to the continuous improvement of service to the island.”
Residents have also been vocal about rising costs for what has been an unreliable service. Residents and businesses point to the “fuel surcharge” line item on their bills which has skyrocketed in recent months, in some cases doubling their bill despite similar kilowatt usage.
Minister of Works, Desmond Bannister – whose portfolio includes the Bahamas Electricity Corporation and BPL – has also commented on the corporations “huge legacy debt” which he said the government can no longer continue to absorb as it has.
Mr. Bannister also said they are looking to find “new, alternative ways” of producing energy in the country. This would include solar.
BPL’s board of directors, and chairperson, has been replaced. Newly appointed chairperson, Darnell Osborne, urged consumers to have patience as the new board seeks to make changes and reduce the cost of electricity.
A month ago, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard called the frequent power outages in Abaco “disgraceful” and “unacceptable.” He urged BPL to “overhaul the island’s protection system”, which he claimed has not been upgraded in 25 years.
On BPL’s website there was a single document addressing a recent outage for Abaco – noteworthy was the lack of any other document offering information to consumers.
The document released on July 30, 2017 explained that the outage occurring on that day were experienced by “Abaco (mainland and the Cays) – all consumers number of active meters affected by the outage (approximate) 8,800 (at outage peak). This number would have been systematically reduced during the restoration process.
They said the cause of outage: “The WCPS is currently undergoing performance testing and adjustments. Amidst the tweaking of the operational parameters, some of the load management was restricted resulting in DG2 & DG4 tripping on overload, resulting in an island wide outage. Adjustments are ongoing.”
They spoke of steps taken to restore affected areas and informed that after initially restoring power, there was a subsequent outage” as a result of the same conditions above, DG3 was placed online followed by DG2 at WCPS along with DG10 at the MHPS. The Main Feeders and Sub-feeders were systematically closed by the Distribution Team, restoring power supply to the entire island.”