High-wire Robbery by Barbados Light & Power

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.

Orlando Burke

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?

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19 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Consumer Issues, Energy

19 responses to “High-wire Robbery by Barbados Light & Power

  1. Megawatt

    Stop complaining !

    there are options.

    either get together with your comunity and start generating your own power, its not rocket science but it does take some finaceing.

    Or just do with out the power use a wood stove, kerosene lamps etc, Bajans did it before the power compony came along.

    all I am saying is, you can do something about it.

    Or you can just keep complaining and pay your bills before they cut you off!

  2. John

    http://www.blpc.com.bb/cus_servicerider.cfm

    MONTHLY RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDIT

    All kWh supplied to the grid @ 1.8 times the Fuel Clause Adjustment or 31.5 cents/kWh, whichever is greater.

    The Fuel Clause Adjustment is calculated according to the Fuel Clause approved by the Fair Trading Commission and may vary from month to month.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Domestic customers can generate their own electricity and sell excess back to the grid.

    Looks like if the FAC was $549.60 on the electricity you consumed and if you could generate it yourself and produce an equivalent amount for the grid you would save the $549.60 and get a credit of $549.60 times 1.8!!

    This credit you could apply against the $252.50 you have to pay BL&P!!!

    Maybe it isn’t as simple as that and yes you need to invest capital on the equipment to generate your own electricity but look into it because there is a payback on the investment.

  3. Anonymous

    Don’t care how fany you put, we are being robbed.

  4. watcher

    It is all about the $ and returns for the shareholders….remember it is foreign owned. Can’t imagine why BL&P would want to reduce rates when it is the only show in town. The Government of the day made a big mistake letting BL&P slip away into foreign control.

  5. TWWIFOS

    Rates are going to get higher. Anyone know any local businesses that deal in solar panels? I’ve had just about enough of this.

  6. just want to know

    Mega watt probably work for B L & P and get a cheaper rate, or he is flowing with money and doesn’t concern himself with poor folks like us, especially pensioners. Electricity is way too expensive, and the more one try to cut out usage, the higher the charges go, and this don’t care government we have are doing nothing about it. God help us .

  7. 238

    If BL&P had indeed pushed for using renewable energy (solar or wind), it’d be much more expensive than using fuel/oil since that technology was and is very much more expensive to use especially for generating the amount of energy that Barbados consumes. Basically, that expense would’ve been passed onto the customer via higher bills which negates any point being made that the company should’ve been replacing their gas turbines with renewable energy.

  8. St George's Dragon

    Oil has gone up, that’s why your bill is higher.
    You can install photovoltaic panels (PV) on your roof and generate your own power.
    That will cost you $10,000/Kw/hr of generating capacity.
    You have a bill of $800 a month. That is something like 1600 Kw used.
    I looked at PV and thought I could save $300/month with a 3 Kw system. That means you would have to invest $80,000 to halve your bill.
    That’s the economics of altenative energy.
    High initial cost for a long-term saving.
    Payback for PV is about 8 years.
    Good if you have the capital to invest but not many do.

  9. Alice in Dreadland

    @ St George’s Dragon

    That is the gospel truth. Yes folks certainly can save with alternative but at those kind of costs then once again it is those with the money that benefit & we lesser mortals remain captive.

    Selling to to a foreign entity just indicated what a ‘licence to print money’ BL& P really is. No matter what happens BL&P are guaranteed a profit. Foolishness to allow that for any monopoly. Meanwhile I have seen my home light bill more than quadruple over 6 years. Fuel poverty is very real here in Barbados & whilst Rome burns our ceremonial emperor fiddles…Lord have his mercy!

  10. slave

    Bajan shareholders sold the company which is largely a monopoly to foreign interests. Its the fault of Bajans. Bajans have sat back and let their island be sold off, corrupted and devalued. Its the fault of Bajans, the most brainwashed mentally enslaved people I have ever come across.

  11. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    THe BL&P are taking full advantage of this recessionary period and they are not showing any leniency or mercy for those who are finding it hard to pay their electricity bills. That is why I tell you that outside a hurricane or any other natural disaster, if my electricity supply should be out for any period exceeding one hour, for which I am inconvenience, I will be seeking a lawyer (hopefully one who is not bought by the current racket of money that runs the lives of these high profile people) for compensation of service loss. Now I know some wise ass like Megawatt will come on here and say something like: What if the company was to grant every single person suffering in the island a leniency what would be the consequences for the company.” I would counter that by saying what if everyone took your advice and generate their own source of energy; return to candle lights and start storing perisables in brine solution or salt. Tell me how much profit these SOB’s would make. People are suffering very bad on this island but that is a reality that certain classes of people with their businesses do not give a rat ass about.

  12. There is a book (I believe they are turning it into a movie) about a boy in Africa who taught himself, using only an old text book, how to build a modern windmill, his name is William Kamkwamba. With this windmill he introduced electricity to his village.
    I have seen similar windmills standing in the yards of older Barbadian houses and farms and often wondered at their potential to provide that house with its own power. I don’t know enough about them, but its worth a thought perhaps, so I will be researching that.

  13. J. Payne

    Hook Barbados into the Eastern Caribbean electricity grid that America is proposing to St. Kitts…. Don’t bother with building a Gas Pipeline to Trinidad when Trinidad only has a decade or two more of fuel left, and then they’ll be stuck buying from Venezuela (and negotiating with the folks in Caracas how much to re-sell to Barbados for.)

    http://www.caribbeanbusinesspr.com/news03.php?nt_id=61415&ct_id=1

    http://bajanreporter.com/white-house-supports-wips-proposed-nevis-puerto-rico-electrical-interconnection/

  14. BFP

    Hi Fangirl,

    We did a story about William Kamkwamba. Thanks for reminding us!

    Here it is: William Kamkwamba – Building windmills from garbage, hope from nothing

  15. 189

    I investigated this thing thoroughly.You know what,Government is to blame.they buy fuel and sell it to BL&P.Out of $350 in bill,$90 is energy the rest is fuel and VAT

  16. just want to know

    You know 189, I heard that sometime ago and did not want to believe it. The DLP government is buying the oil and then selling it to Barbados light & Power and making a handsome profit, with all the Vat included, so when we pay our light bill we are paying double. How is that for a considerate government?

  17. Eyes wide shut

    Finally!!!!!! Thank you 189 and just want to know. Our bills have mainly increased because of fuel and VAT. Fuel bought from Government and VAT charged by government. We need to really look at our bills. It amazes me how much electricity we use in our everyday lives and get this “we are charged for usage” however we don’t look at the rental charge from LIME for or landlines and other services regardless of usage and on top of that PISSPOOR service from the contact centre *stupse*

  18. sonja barry

    I THOUGHT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GET AN EASE IN OUR UTILITY BILLS IN 2015 BUT INSTEAD WE SEEM TO BE STUCK WITH MORE BILLS AND HIGHER RATES WHAT ARE WE COMING TO EVERYONE CAN NOT AFFORD THESE AUSTERE MEASURES WHAT ABOUT BACK TO SCHOOL AS WELL