By Orlando Burke
My most recent electric bill showed a significant increase. My energy charges totaled $252.50 while the fuel charge was $549.16. If paid before the discount date, the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P) would reward me with a discount amounting to around $30.00. I will not be hooked by such insignificant bait.
Originally, fuel was an input in the production process of the BL&P; now it is both an input, and an add-on. An apt analogy would be the case of a baker selling a loaf of bread and charging extra for the flour used to make it.
Currently, Barbados is experiencing challenging economic times. A period characterized by lay-offs, calls for Unions to exercise wage restraint, and the common sight of persons having to leave items at the cash register in the supermarket.
I am concerned that in such an environment, the BL&P, a private monopoly appears comfortable in recording a profit of $54 million. While it is accepted that investment in a new plant facility, as alluded to by an official of BL&P in the Nation Newspaper, Sunday Sun edition of 28th August, 2011 maybe necessary over the long term, there is still no justification for the super-profits recorded by the Company.
I understand that an increasing number of consumers are unable to pay their electric bills. Surely, the BL&P could have some social conscience, whether voluntarily or otherwise, and reward its shareholders in a manner more reasonable when set against its treatment of the consuming public. In my view, a profit of $54 million today represents significant overcharging.
One recalls how effectively the BL&P defended its case at the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) which examined its proposed rate increase One’s impression was that such an increase was crucial to the Company’s survival, but by all available evidence this appears not to be the case in light of the $54 million profit.
Over the years, the BL&P whether through its own fault or otherwise has failed to pursue alternative and cheaper means of reducing the production costs of electricity in this country. There is a small island in the Cape Verde Islands several times poorer than Barbados, and about 20 years behind Barbados in its development. Yet, it manages to generate all of its electrical power from wind turbines. One also recalls when the new generating plant at Spring Garden was constructed, the BL& P professed that it would reduce the cost of electricity. This has not materialized.
Questions the BL&P should answer for Barbados…
- Why has the BL&P not pursued the erection of wind farms, or the generation of electricity from solar power as aggressively as it has pursued the rate increase?
- Is the current generating plant used at the Garrison the most efficient technology available?
If the BL&P is unwilling or unable to show a social conscience and charge equitable rates, then the Barbados Government should intervene. Our nation should not be taken for granted.
After reading Orlando Burke’s article, our friend Colin L Beadon weighs in with this memory…
I know of a similar story. The British government contracted a rig from Trinidad to drill steam wells in St Lucia. This was in the mid 1970s.
I took the rig in and we drilled seven wells. Three of the wells had steam that tested a total 3.5 Megawatts. In those days that would have lighted the south of St Lucia across to a Viewfort.
In those days the British Government, still held certain sway over St Lucia power generation, but they were all terrified of the steam wells drilled at Sulphur Springs in Soufriere. Certain overseas companies wanted to go in to St Lucia and produce electricity from the steam. But the government did not want that.
In 1981 or 82, I had to take a cementing truck from Trinidad, and go back into those wells in St Lucia, and cement them up. The Americans later, drilled a much deeper well in the same area, that tested, I’m told, 12 megawatts. Nothing further has been done with the steam in St Lucia, though in many parts of the world steam electricity generation is powering thousands of megawatts, as you can find out by going to Google.
So why should BL&P be any different here in Barbados, than the company that runs Power in St Lucia? It would appear that we are struck by a certain small island Malady when it comes to using alternative forms of Electricity production. For the last five odd years, there are people here in Barbados that have been attempting to be allowed to produce electricity using their own finances, but they have been so far blocked. That is five years of Malady, wouldn’t you say? Can you wonder why our electricity can never cost us less?