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2003-03-13 19:17:29

BEC Announces Increased Electricity Costs

Though the basic rate for electricity has not changed in 9 years, the fuel surcharge added every month has increased steadily since March 2002.

Consumers could expect increases in their next electricity bill due to a number of factors, including an impending war in the Middle East, Bahamas Electricity Corporation General Manager Bradley Roberts announced yesterday.

In addition to the possible war, Mr. Roberts said the increases are due in part to low oil production in South America caused by a strike in Venezuela and increased demand for heating due to harsh winter conditions in the United States.

"If someone paid a little over $200 for [his or her] light bill, say around $210 for their light bill last month, that same person would have to pay approximately $15 more for this month," Mr. Roberts said in an interview with the Bahama Journal. "So you will be paying a little over one and a half cents more for each kilowatt hour that you use."

A BEC ad that ran in local newspapers yesterday pointed out that changing market conditions, in light of present trends, indicate that oil prices will continue to rise in the coming months.

The fuel surcharge rate is directly related to the costs incurred by BEC in purchasing oil for electricity production and it is tied to internationally posted prices.

"The rate has been climbing steadily since the end of last year, but we experienced the biggest upward leap in the last month when it rose from 3.6485 cents per kilowatt in January/February to 5.1923 cents per kilowatt in February/March. This represents an increase of 1.5438 cents per kilowatt," the ad said.

Mr. Roberts said BEC shares the problem of higher fuel prices with many electricity suppliers around the world, the majority of which have had to increase fuel surcharge to cover escalating cost.

"If a war occurs within weeks, there is a chance that the crude oil prices per barrel, which is around $37.00 per barrel can go up to around $40.00 per barrel if the war starts," Mr. Roberts said. "Then depending on what happens after that it may stay at that level for a little while, maybe a couple of months, then it would probably start to go down again."

Changing market conditions in light of present trends, mostly significantly escalating tensions between the United States and Iraq indicates that oil prices will continue to rise in the coming months, which in turn means a parallel fuel surcharge increase.

The increase in electricity bills will come, even if consumption has not increased, Mr. Roberts said.

"BEC is dedicated to providing a safe, reliable and cost effective supply of electricity to its consumers, and will play a greater role in encouraging operational efficiency among staff and conservation among customers," Mr. Roberts said.

His ad also advised consumers to practice conserving energy, particularly at this time.

The ad listed five conservation tips: If it is not in use, turn it off; lower the temperature on water heaters (Have your electrician perform this); control the water heater with a timer switch; raise the temperature setting on air-conditioning units and use a fan; and use fluorescent bulbs, especially in areas where lighting is used for long periods.

By Yvette Rolle-Major, The Bahama Journal

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