BPL's Abaco customer base just 50% of pre-Dorian size

By YOURI KEMP

Tribune Business Reporter

ykemp@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) is receiving 75 reconnection applications per week from residents and businesses seeking to rejoin an Abaco customer base that is just 50 percent of its pre-Dorian size.

Ian Pratt, BPL's chief operating officer, told the Abaco Business Outlook conference: “Abaco represents our second largest service territory. We had 9,165 customers before Dorian in July 2019. Present recorded customers is now 4,625 as of September 2020."

He added that, despite the devastation inflicted by Dorian and the regular power outages that Abaco residents are still enduring, the state-owned utility monopoly has "sufficient generation capacity and redundancy" on the island.

"The island's peak demand was 26 Mega Watts (MW), and we installed generation in Abaco of 56 MW," Mr Pratt said. "There is a 48 MW station in Wilson City power plant.

"We are now faced with the need to rehabilitate both the Marsh Harbour and Wilson City power stations, and the damage to Marsh Harbour is going to take some significant funding to rebuild. We are well under way in the redevelopment of the Wilson City plant, and that plant is well on the way to delivering steady power.

“We are adding in substations we can monitor from Wilson City to help monitor power supply to the surrounding towns in Abaco. We are adding some redundancy in the Cays loop, and we are going to strengthen that loop in this redevelopment of the power grid in Abaco.”

Mr Pratt said BPL is adding two new power lines north from Marsh Harbour that will be built on ductile iron poles, in a bid to ensure they can withstand future Category five storms.

He added that the transmission lines have been built on stronger poles, while underground cables will be used to connect the island's hospital to the grid. Solar micro grids will be used for other key infrastructure such as the Sandypoint clinic; government offices; the airport; and main water and sewerage plants, as well as government clinics.

“The advanced metering infrastructure development will allow us to monitor from the main station our customers, as well as pre-paid metering and allow for remote reconnect and disconnections,” said Mr Pratt.

"We want to make sure what we do is fit for the purpose. We want capacity, reliability and reinforcement in anticipation of growth. We want to make sure we stay ahead of growth in our target areas.”

John Conway, Water Mission Disaster's response manager, said: We have spent $4m in response relief for water restoration in Abaco. Our long-term response is the Abaco Sunny Waters project, in partnership with UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) and Water and Sewerage Corporation.

"This is a $2.2m project. More than 1,000 solar panels will be used for this project, which is being built primarily by Bahamian companies. Water Mission is also working with local medical facilities to provide water solutions. We are using a combination of rain water collection, treatment systems and reverse osmosis to supply the locations with reliable water options.

“Looking forward, we want to marry the Abaco Sunny Waters project in North Abaco. This would provide more resilient water solutions for areas such as Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Blackwood, Cooper’s Town and Fire Road," Mr Conway added.

"We currently have donations in the amount of $900,000 towards this project, which will allow us to do Phase one, which is the 12 wells that are the North Abaco water station near to the airport. Our organisation is looking to find an additional $1.8m to complete all the phases of this project.”