BEC, Blackouts and The Promises of Politicians

becIn announcing that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) spent about $5 million over the past six months improving the Clifton Pier Power Station in a bid to cut energy costs, the corporation’s executive chairman, Leslie Miller, said the upgrades will also help to prevent blackouts once the summer months roll in.

“We don’t expect any blackouts,” Miller said.

Another significant expenditure on BEC, another promise of improved services – this is a story the public hears from the government nearly every year as summer approaches.

In May 2012, Parliamentary Secretary of Works and Urban Development Renward Wells announced plans to catapult BEC to the cutting edge of modern technology.

He said: “We intend in every sense of the word to bring BEC into the modern era, in terms of the fuel we use, the electricity we generate and renewables.

“The PLP is very much in tune with the whole idea of bringing BEC into the 21st century.”

Around the same time, just before the PLP won the general election, then BEC Chairman Michael Moss announced two major investments for BEC: A $23.7 million contract with Japanese conglomerate Hitachi to install a 24-megawatt combustion turbine generator and the $6 million rental of a generator to reduce the number of blackouts.

The new Hitachi generator was slated for installation in the summer of 2013, however blackouts persisted.

The summer before, thousands of consumers expressed anger after being plagued by frequent power outages.

Insufficient capacity resulting from malfunctioning generators forced BEC to regularly schedule load shedding for several communities in New Providence.

Last August, Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed the government’s plan to engage private companies to enter into the energy sector with BEC.

Christie said contracts would be signed with prospective companies by the end of 2013 and contract execution would take place in January 2014. Companies were to launch operations as early as this month, had the process remained on track. However, the process has been delayed by six months.

Simon Townend, managing partner of KPMG (Bahamas), recently told The Nassau Guardian that the final decision on preferred bidders was “still with Cabinet”.

Asked about the delay last month, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said the government does not want to rush such an important decision. He said the government would be in a position to make an announcement by the middle of May. However, no announcement has been made.

Both Christie and Davis promised the deal will be transparent, but the many observers who asked for more details of the planned restructuring are still waiting for answers.

And so yet again we find ourselves facing another long, hot summer, with nothing more concrete standing between us and the threat of frequent blackouts than the word of a politician.