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Liberal Party is deeply concerned over the very serious financial state
of affairs that has beset the Bahamas Electricity Corporation since May
2007. We are informed that the Corporation is seriously challenged to
pay its oil bill. Just recently Chairman Moss confirmed a BEC oil debt
of over $120 million which represents a sizable amount of the Country's
Foreign Banking Reserves. We urge the government to disclose why BEC is
purchasing Fuel supplies at spot market prices versus forward
contracting and the rate of interest being paid by BEC to its oil
supplier as result of long overdue delay in payments.
A wind power company has built a test facility in Eleuthera to show its financiers that technology will pay dividends in the Family Islands.
Eleuthera Wind Power Ltd., a joint venture between WINSO Company Limited and Schneider Power Caribbean, has just completed the first phase of a project that will ultimately provide energy for the Tarpum Bay Desalination Plant.
The Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement with the wind farm that is expected to reduce its energy bill by 25 percent.
While the firms "meteorological tower" will measure wind energy over the next 12 months, the CEO of WINSO Company expects they'll have everything they need to know within six.
"None of the financiers will give you money unless you do your own independent study," Vincent Macdonald told Guardian Business.
"Right now the wind is very strong. What we are looking for is consistency to give us the return we're looking for. It'll tell us exactly how much power we'll have month to month."
The Eleuthera wind farm, expected to cost $2 million upon completion, is just one of six other sister facilities being planned on other Family Islands, including Inagua, Bimini and Abaco.
Eleuthera Wind Power Ltd. has signed preliminary agreements with WSC to supply a similar amount of power to other desalination plants.
The total build out and investment will be up to $15 million.
Macdonald said all of the data currently being assembled will be shared with the Bahamas Meteorology Department.
"It is a very important step. It will show the seriousness of our group and our commitment to the government and the country to reduce energy costs to desalination plants," he explained.
WINSO Company has already cleared the eventual site for the full facility. The first tower will measure wind speed, direction, air pressure and temperature.
Thomas Schneider, the president of Scheider Power, said his discussions with the Bahamian government have given him the confidence to invest in renewable energy in the country.
The residents of Eleuthera and other Family Islands will gain more knowledge and intellectual property in the emerging sector.
In New Providence, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation has signed an understanding with Ocean Thermal Engineering Corporation to build two plants on the island and buy power for use among the general public.
Schneider said the wind farms will further "showcase" the country's potential for renewable energy and create jobs, tax revenue, lower electricity costs and energy security in the process.
By SANCHESKA BROWN
RESIDENTS across New Providence were warned to expect more power cuts until the Bahamas Electricity Corporation restored two failed generators.
Yesterday BEC promised to soon restore power to the thousands of customers who were forced to sit for two days in the summer heat without electricity after three company generators shut down. The broken units are at the Blue Hill Road and Clifton Pier plants.
Up to press time, only one of the three generators was returned to service. BEC expected the other two to be restored within 24 hours. Until then residents were warned they could experience more outages.
A larger generator is out of service for overhauls. Arnette Wilson ...
Friday 4th November 2011 9:00 AM
Energy Efficiency Forum and Practical Workshops Managing Energy Costs and Efficiencies: A Business and Consumer Forum and Exhibition Providing Practical and Proven Solutions to Growing Energy Costs November 4th and 5th, Wyndham Nassau Resort Opportunity for business owners and managers, technicians and professionals, and consumers to learn and meet with experts in the energy efficiency and sustainable energy field. November 4th session tailored to businesses; November 5th to residents and businesses Who? Sponsored by…. The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, Bahamas Hotel Association, and the Bahamas Home & Builders Show in cooperation with the Bahamas Ministry of Environment, the United States Embassy, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Bahamas Contractors Association. Forum Topics: Financing Your Savings and Efficiencies · Focuses on how local commercial banks and international lending institutions can help to finance business investments in energy efficiency and renewable technologies. Policies and Practical Tools · Policies have a direct impact on business costs now and into the future. Workshop will address practical steps businesses can undertake to take advantage of them. Participants will learn about current policies and initiatives in place to support energy cost-reductions and efficiencies as well as those under consideration. Best Practices in Commercial Energy Efficiency · Much more can be done by businesses to reduce energy costs. Session will cover the basics and address practical low-cost measures which can be put in place now. ‘Vision for a Green Bahamas’…. · Providing both a global and Bahamas perspective, participants will hear from a global leader and a local developer about the business practicalities of ‘going green’. Spikes, Swells, Sags and Cuts….Learn More About How to Protect and Save · Participants will learn how to minimize disruption and damage from power inconsistencies and realize savings with minimal investment. Don’t Be Left in the Dark: The Changing Lighting Industry Will Impact Those Unprepared · The US Energy Independent Security Act will soon impact purchase decisions in The Bahamas on lighting. Workshop focuses on lighting retrofits for quick paybacks, and incandescent and halogen lamp limit availability as of July 2012. Should You Design and Renovate Green (Pro’s and Cons) · Participants will discover how short-term design and engineering investments yield long-term returns. Improving Building Performance · Focuses on getting it right from the start – whether building new, expanding or retrofitting. Ocean Thermal Energy…. · Learning the facts about using seawater to reduce utility costs. Forum Presenters…. § Minister Phenton Neymour, Ministry of Environment § Ambassador Nicole Avant, United States Embassy § Stuart Bowe, Bahamas Hotel Association § Winston Rolle, Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation § Kevan Dean, Kerzner International § Kevin Basden, Bahamas Electricity Corporation § Glenn Mahado, NALCO Company § Peter Laughlin, Ecotechnologies § Bill Thayer, Bloom Energy § James Malcolm, Schooner Bay § Gregory Watson, Inter-American Development Bank § Lynn Tabernacki, U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation § Michael Lovan, Motor Dynamics § Lara Cordell, Wiedenbach-Brown Co, Inc. § Jeremy Feakins, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation § Jonathan Cunningham, Westfield Construction § Sonia Brown, Graphite Engineering § Tim Cordell, Eaton Energy Solutions Group § Robert Hall, Bahamas Electricity Corporation § Godfrey Forbes, Bahamas Contractors Association § Leonard Sands, Bahamas Contractors Association Exhibitors Following is a partial listing of exhibitors confirmed to date with a number of others pending confirmation: Arawak Homes, Allied KB, Colina Financial Advisors, Jolly Roger, Paint Suppliers, Storm Frame Windows and Doors, The Home Depot, Oasis Chic Living, The A/C People, Alternate Power Solutions, Bramer Insurance, Quantum Shield/Crimsafe, RBC/FINCO, Eagle Lighting & Electric, Ministry of the Environment, Lindar Industries, Bahamas National Trust, Hall’s Electric Supplies, V-Trade, Western Hardware & Lumber…..and more. Registration Information – Registration Form is Attached The Friday forum sessions are more intense and geared towards industry professionals. They are open to the public by registration. Registration fees include lunch and all workshops. Fees are $75 for BHA and Chamber members and representatives of cooperating organizations and $100 for nonmembers. Students are $50. The Home and Builders Show is free and open to the public. Saturday’s forum sessions are free and open to the public. Reserving a Booth Details for exhibiting at the Home and Builder’s Show are attached. Space is still available. Family Island and Grand Bahama Attendees… The Wyndham is offering a special rate. Contact the hotel directly using information on the attached form. Click HERE to fill out registration form. Click HERE to fill room reservation form.
The Bahamas' tax system is antiquated and can no longer support a growing and constantly developing country, Livingston Ferguson, senior customs/revenue officer, Ministry of Finance, told teachers at Government High School during a recent session at their professional development workshop.
Ferguson said that VAT represents the county's best chance at economic recovery and its ability to keep pace with national development.
"As it relates to recurrent expenditure, we're spending at the tune of $1.7 billion a year and only taking in $1.5 billion in revenue," Ferguson said.
"Our present revenue collection system is antiquated. About 60 percent of all of our revenue comes from customs duty and we've been using that system for 100 years. We need to move to other forms of tax to meet the country's needs."
Ferguson pointed out that as the population continues to grow, The Bahamas' social and infrastructure needs will increase and the government will have to find ways to satisfy them. He added that organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have strongly suggested to The Bahamas that the country take more aggressive measures at correcting its fiscal situation. While the Ministry of Finance is doing all it can to plug the leaks in its already established sources of revenue, Ferguson said much more needs to be done.
"We are not too far gone yet, but what we do today will determine what will happen to us in the future," Ferguson said.
"A rise in debt would mean for The Bahamas a decreased capacity to borrow in the case of emergencies like hurricanes and a further credit downgrade would mean that interest rates for not only the government but for the average consumer would increase."
The government's series of consultations on VAT continued yesterday at S.C. McPherson High School and the Bahamas Human Resources Association; and at Alexiou Knowles & Co. and the Bahamas Electricity Corporation today.
I read in the papers this morning (Monday) that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is to slash their losses from $30 million to between $5 and 10 million this year and Cable and Wireless wants to downsize the personnel at the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) by a third before buying the company. Is this all a bad dream or a joke?
BEC has among the highest electricity rates in the world and they still make a loss.
This means we continue to pay more for our electricity. On top of that the government does not seem to really encourage alternative means of energy.
Why not if they cannot supply the goods at a reasonable rate? Also I do not see heads rolling at BEC. Wh ...
The government of The Bahamas has renewed its conversations with liquified natural gas (LNG) producers to explore the prospects for that energy source in The Bahamas, and in fact, Prime Minister Perry Christie said in the margins of the Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) that the government is talking with "one of the major players for natural gas who has just gone into Jamaica."
Christie told Guardian Business that the United States' pledge to explore exporting LNG throughout the Caribbean offered The Bahamas an opportunity to further develop its alternate and renewable energy sector in the face of monumental electricity costs for businesses and residencies in the country.
"We have entered discussions to seek the ability to have the U.S. export natural gas to the Caribbean. We've [additionally] had discussions with one of those LNG producers who's building a plant in Florida now all with a view of taking advantage of what could happen in terms of the production of natural gas; of course that means converting for that reality.
"We're in talks now with one of the major players for natural gas who has just gone into Jamaica. We've chosen an island to talk to him about, so renewables and alternate energy sources are going to be a very hot topic in The Bahamas for the next period of time," said Christie.
Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller had previously advocated the construction of a $200 million 128 MW power plant at Clifton Pier capable of burning both LNG and "bunker C" fuel as opposed to diesel: he argued the move could cut generation costs for the country significantly.
The U.S. has rapidly become one of the largest producers of natural gas worldwide. The U.S. Department of Energy has approved several applications to export LNG to global customers, with the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicting that the U.S. will become a net exporter of LNG by 2020. Meanwhile, LNG producers continue to lobby for the expedited approval of additional applications to export even greater volumes of LNG in 2015.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lent his support to both increasing the ease with which middle-income CARICOM countries procure funding for alternate and renewable energy initiatives, while also expressing interest in LNG exports moving forward.
Christie welcomed the financing decision, telling Guardian Business that funding should be based on the reality of the environmental impacts of climate change rather than the country's income per capita. Christie similarly felt that Trinidad offered the region competitive pricing for LNG given their diminished presence in the American fuel market following the U.S. LNG boom.
Monday's summit gathered delegates from 16 Caribbean countries to explore methods of reducing the cost of energy in the region. The Bahamian government has committed to having a renewable energy input of 30 percent by 2030, while CARICOM currently seeks 20 percent alternate energy penetration by 2017. The Caribbean bloc has already identified energy security as a primary platform in its five-year strategic plan.
The nearing general election is increasingly dominating public discourse and public spaces. The political parties are on full attack mode and posters and party flags are increasingly visible as supporters display their allegiances. Bahamians are a passionate people around election time. High voter turn out rates have been the norm in our elections since majority rule.
While the parties will have much to say in the weeks to come, we want to hear from you as to what your concerns are for the country at this time in our history. Over the next few weeks we will feature in the paper your voices and ask the question, "What Matters to You?"
Many Bahamians have been harmed as a result of the high level of crime in our country in recent years. The record 127 people murdered last year were not just statistics - they were people. Families still grieve and some still live in fear. The 2011 murder record was the fourth in five years.
While crime is the number one concern to many, for others it's the economy. The unemployment rate was last measured in 2011 at 13.7 percent. When the 11,900 discouraged workers from that labor survey are added to the overall jobless rate, it is obvious that many people are hurting and struggling to make ends meet.
Many of these unemployed people are among the thousands living without electricity. They simply do not have the money to play bills owed to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). The growing uncertainty in the Middle East could make this problem worse.
Syria is nearly in a state of civil war and Israel may be close to bombing Iran in an attempt to prevent that country from developing a nuclear weapon. A sudden spike in the price of oil would send more Bahamians into darkness due to the higher electricity rates.
The debt issues now facing Kerzner International have added to the general economic uncertainty in the country in the post-2008 financial crisis period. A creditor attempted to take the Atlantis and One&Only Ocean Club properties several months ago before pulling back from the move after other creditors objected. It is unclear what will happen in 2012 to the country's largest private sector employer.
As crime and the state the economy worry many, for others illegal immigration and education are the major issues of concern.
The production of the news is a reciprocal process. The media asks questions and pursues stories on the behalf of the community and its mandate to be a watchdog. Hence, it is important for readers, in various ways, to indicate what are the major issues of concern at this time.
Tell us what you think we should be writing about. And let us know where you stand. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll print the most engaging opinions on our Op-Ed page over the next few weeks.
Watching Hubert Ingraham officially open one building after the other, spend the public's money like it's his own or that of one of his millionaire financial backers, or borrow money from international institutions sinking the Bahamian economy deeper into the abyss, gives me the impression of a desperate man. At times it appears as if he is going to become unhinged. It is obvious that he would do everything, say anything, to preserve his legacy.
And what will the legacy of Hubert Ingraham be, rather what should it be having regard to some members of the news media who have defended, excused, validated and justified every public pronouncement he has ever made, no matter how damaging?
Hubert Ingraham attempted early in his tenure to paint the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government as being reckless with the public finances. He went to great lengths and verbosity to demonstrate how his administration would be different. He wrote these words for his first Speech from the Throne: "My government will restore fiscal discipline to the public finances of the country, and will ensure that value is obtained for public expenditure and public business."
In his first budget communication on November 25, 1992 he claimed that: "Indeed, it was the indiscipline of the previous government, which did not properly plan the generation and use of public finances, which has resulted in the fiscal difficulties facing our nation at this time."
Time has proven that Hubert Ingraham cannot credibly lecture anyone on the merits of fiscal discipline. When he returned to office in 2007, Hubert Ingraham met the national debt at $2.9 billion. By the end of December 2010 he and his government had grown the national debt to $4.2 billion. It now stands at $4.6 billion, but by the end of this fiscal year the national debt is expected to be in the area of $5 billion. That is a net increase of some $2.1 billion in just five years. How's that for fiscal discipline? Furthermore, Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement (FNM) increased the government debt as a percentage of GDP by 2010 to the dangerous level of 49.2 percent. Some believe that it is now over 50 percent.
For sure, the numbers were impacted by the recession. But if you believed Hubert Ingraham during those days of euphoria in the early 1990s, you have to conclude that he could have done a better job of managing the economy. Here is what he had to say in his first budget presentation in November 1992: "Furthermore, these budgetary problems were allowed to develop at a time when a prudent government would have recognized that cautionary measures should have been in place to meet any likelihood of a major recession in the U.S. economy, and to cushion the resultant impact on our tourism driven economy."
He went on to say: "It cannot be said that those who were responsible for managing the economy did not know hard times were coming, they just chose to ignore all the indicators."
I wonder if Hubert Ingraham and the FNM realized that hard times were coming in 2007? What time is it now, Mr. Wolf?
The FNM likes to justify the reckless borrowing and spending by pointing to the fact that you can see and touch what the money had been spent on. What a ridiculous assertion! This irresponsible 'the end justifies the means' attitude to public spending on capital works is the primary reason why public finances are in such a crisis position. You spend over $150 million on roadworks, in the process you damage and destroy family-owned businesses which had been in existence for decades; you disturb travel on almost every major street. I can hardly believe that this is the same prime minister and minister of finance who once said the following: "The previous government's reckless disregard for fiscal discipline was evident also in the manner in which capital projects were poorly planned and implemented."
How open and transparent was the process that ended up with Cable and Wireless purchasing a 51 percent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)? Cable and Wireless was not even a part of the bidding process. Yet, the committee appointed to oversee the process was in discussions with Cable and Wireless even while apparently evaluating bids submitted by other companies who did submit bids.
The new contract the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) signed with OTEC recently smacks of lack of transparency. It appears that the OTEC contract, which was again awarded behind closed doors, seemed to be some gift to the Lyford Cay dynasty. Open government? Hubert Ingraham's idea of open and transparent government is to hold the opening of Parliament in Rawson Square.
Nowhere is Hubert Ingraham's legacy more lacking than in his failure to maintain public safety. The FNM thought that the reduction in crime, especially violent crime, was a legitimate issue for their trust agenda. How can anyone trust the FNM after they have presided over the most murderous and violent era in the history of The Bahamas? This is an indisputable fact; over 457 murders over a period of less than five years. This number does not take into account the scores of unclassified deaths over this period. Moreover, Dr. Duane Sands has alleged that number does not tell the true picture of the level of violence in the society. He claimed that the 457 murders would have been significantly higher if it had not been for the talented doctors and nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital. What an indictment!
Desperation seems to be driving the FNM. The secret (at least to Bahamians) visit by Haitian President Michel Martelly was the straw that broke the camel's back. We would have expected the prime minister to demonstrate the foresight and explain to the Haitian president that a few weeks before the election was not a good time to visit The Bahamas. We should at the very least expect him to say to the president that when you speak to your nationals do not say anything that could possibly be interpreted as political.
Those former Haitians who now have Bahamian citizenship should owe their loyalty to The Bahamas and not still be under the influence of the Haitian president. Their loyalty should now be to The Bahamas, its flag, its constitution and to its culture. How could so large a number of Bahamian citizens have divided loyalty and still regard the Haitian president as their head of state?
That is what happens when you dispense Bahamian nationality for political reasons; you cheapen and disvalue your citizenship. Tell me how could the Haitian president tell a group of supposed Bahamian citizens to vote in bloc? Of course I am assuming that only Bahamian citizens could still vote.
- Eric Gardner
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last night promised to create thousands of new living spaces in southwest New Providence.
Ingraham, who did not give a specific date for the creation of the proposed "South Beach Township", explained his "long-term" vision as he opened the Free National Movement's (FNM) constituency office in that area last night.
"The South Beach Township will include 3,000 high-density residential units mixed with commercial, civic and recreational areas," said Ingraham.
"The housing has a smaller footprint than most Bahamian subdivisions and will be divided into three walkable neighborhoods, with live/work accommodation linked by bike and pedestrian paths as well as roads."
He said space for government offices will also be included.
To help control flooding, preserve tree cover and provide public amenities, Ingraham said the area will have a large neighborhood park with a large lagoon which will grow during severe storms as rainfall drains into it.
"A flushing channel will be excavated along the shoreline to improve tidal flow, provide boat access and create recreational opportunities. The spoil from this dredging will be used to restore the beach dune," he said.
As he touted the attributes of attorney Monique Gomez, who will run on the party's ticket for the area in the upcoming polls, Ingraham also revealed that over 1,100 Bahamians have had electricity restored to their homes under a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reconnection plan he announced last week.
Under the plan, customers are required to pay their current electricity bills and to pay something on the overdue amount owed to BEC, however reconnection fees will be waived.
Ingraham said last night, "Now some are saying that we are doing this for election. Well what were we doing it for when we put programs in place to have households reconnected to BEC twice before during this term in office?
"There was no election on the horizon then."
He also lashed out at criticisms Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip 'Brave' Davis recently levied against the FNM over the crime rate.
"There is no 'quick fix' for crime. Pay no mind to those who suddenly now proclaim that they have what they have never had before - a solution to crime," he said.
"I listened to Brave Davis give the PLP plank on crime on [television]. I kept trying to remember when it was that he came to be on the side of the victims of crime.
"Seems he spends a lot of time defending those on the offending side of crime. Perhaps he, like Saul, had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Ask him when?
"As I watched him [Wednesday] night I couldn't get my mind off '90'. I tried really hard to think 80 or 70 or some other number, but as I watched him, it was '90' that kept popping up in my head."
Davis, who is the member of Parliament for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador, was the lawyer of Bahamian drug lord Samuel "Ninety" Knowles, who was extradited to the United States in 2006 and convicted of drug trafficking in 2008.
The FNM will be in Marco City, Grand Bahama on the weekend, followed by Bamboo Town next week.
Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller said it would be "unfair" to levy value-added tax (VAT) on electricity bills.
Miller said many BEC consumers are already "overburdened" with the cost of power, and questioned if a tax should be applied to this bill.
"To me, that's a double edged sword," he said.
"You're taxing me twice, as an individual then as a user of electricity and that's something that the Ministry of Finance has got to decide on."
He added: "Personally I don't think it's fair, but that's not my decision. The decision is whether the government can accrue sufficient revenue to enable it to cover expenses by bringing in VAT."
Miller said the impact of VAT on BEC bills would depend on the rate the government sets and the minimum consumption threshold that would determine who is exempt.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said recently the government has yet to decide whether electricity will be taxed.
Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, said a final decision on whether to place VAT on BEC bills will be made based on public opinion on the issue.
"No decision or discussion -- not at our level -- has taken place yet on that issue, save to say it has been put in the public domain," Davis told The Nassau Guardian.
The government has proposed to apply a 15 percent VAT to a broad range of goods and services come July 1.
In the VAT bill released in November, the tax on electricity would kick in for residential consumers once they consume over a certain amount of power a month.
Ishmael Lightbourne, VAT consultant to the government, has said the amount "in consideration" was 200 kilowatt-hours per month.
The proposed legislation and regulations left the space blank where the exact amount that would constitute this threshold would have appeared.
The justification for the tax on electricity is that the government stands to lose about $30 million in annual revenue if electricity bills are not subject to VAT.
Recently, Financial Secretary John Rolle said the Ministry of Finance was considering a higher threshold, which would allow more consumers to benefit from a VAT exemption on their bill.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A RENEWABLE energy provider has told Tribune Business it felt "sidelined" by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) decision to close its open bidding process and then subsequently sign an agreement with Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTEC), adding that this nation could be "two years ahead" if it had proceeded with the former.
Thomas Schneider, president of Canadian-headquartered Schneider Power, which has partnered with a Bahamian firm to form Eleuthera Wind Power, the firm that will be supplying energy for the Water & Sewerage Corporation's Tarpum Bay reverse osmosis plant, said he had never received a satisfacto ...
The CEO of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) says the infrastructure in Eleuthera is still in a "vulnerable" state following last's year hurricane and restoration work must continue this year.
There is just one problem - nobody seems to know who will pick up the hefty repair bill.
Michael Moss said BEC's inability to impose a tariff and pass the cost of repairs onto the consumer highlights the need for an emergency fund.
The government shot down the idea of a tariff last week.
Although the corporation restored normal operations throughout the Family Islands long ago, Hurricane Irene left more than a few scars after passing through the country last August.
Moss told Guardian Business there are cracks in the system that must be mended.
"We did all the work to restore power and supplies, but the system was left in a vulnerable state and continues to be that way," he explained. "I was hoping we would provide an estimate on the repairs and get a commitment on a recovery proposal. That has not been forthcoming, so we will get the system back in good condition, accumulate the cost and later have that discussion point with the government."
BEC has not released that estimate on the final bill to restore the system, although earlier indications pegged the amount at around $5 million.
The lion's share of the work must be done on Eleuthera, which took a major hit from the passage of Hurricane Irene.
One of the major expenditures, Moss explained, is the widespread replacement of cracked and dislodged poles on the island.
He said the system can "make do", but must be replaced.
Cat Island also sustained major damage, he added. However, it was so extensive on that island that much of the system has been revamped already, not to mention the fact is it far smaller than what is found on Eleuthera.
Moss felt the current issue concerning who pays for repairs in the event of a disaster speaks to the need for a special relief fund for BEC. It also demonstrates the eventual need for an independent regulator, beyond the government level, to facilitate these needs.
"The regulator would allow you to put something extra aside to build a reserve," Moss told Guardian Business. "But that would mean charging the customer to build that reserve. Either you should have a reserve or we should be allowed to recover in some other fashion. At the moment, it is not clearly laid out how that would happen."
That said, Moss indicated that the government remains committed to a proper BEC system and for the corporation to eventually be governed by an independent regulator.
in the meantime, Moss said BEC has no choice but to continue on with the repairs, much of which will be done using internal resources to avoided added cost.
It is more cost effective, but it will take longer.
"We have already begun the work to make the system more robust. We don't have a timeframe because we're doing it in-house with in-house resources. We use resources as they become available," he said.
A renewable energy company has expressed disappointment at a government decision not to allow commercial entities that install renewable energy systems to tie into the national grid when it undertakes energy sector reforms in the coming year.
Philip Holdom, owner of Alternative Power Supply Bahamas, installs solar systems for a living and was invited to be a part of the government's most recent National Energy Taskforce.
However, he said that despite his proposals, he never saw the final report and does not agree with the government's stated plan on business operators who install renewable energy systems.
"I submitted a one-page paper to them outlining what I thought would be a good renewable energy mix for the country. The goal should be 30 percent (of energy from renewable sources) overall - that's the maximum amount you can put on a generator-based grid.
"I proposed they should allow residential consumers to (generate) 100 percent of their power (from renewables), and businesses to do 50 percent of their power.
"The reason I said 50 percent was because businesses use the majority of power. If they made 100 percent of their power then BEC would have no revenues. When I met with the ministers, they seemed to think that was a good idea - a good compromise," said Holdom, owner of Alternative Power Supply Bahamas.
In its recently issued request for proposal, which intends to support the splitting of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation into two entities which would be privately owned/managed, with the aim of reducing power costs, the government said that it plans to address proposals for the renewable power production sector in 2014 "as part of a second phase of reforms" following the liberalization of mainstream generation.
The government wishes to create an energy sector that is 30 percent powered by renewable energy by 2030, which will include 10 percent of the sector's power coming from residential energy self generation.
It intends to create either a net billing or net metering system with a grid tie-in, via a legislative update, to incentivize renewable energy. The benefit of tying into the grid for the consumer is that he or she can offload extra power produced into the national grid rather than needing batteries to store it, which can be the most expensive component of a renewable system.
Notwithstanding this incentivizing effect of a grid tie-in, Renward Wells, parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development, has since clarified that the government has determined it will not allow commercial entities to tie their renewable systems into the grid in the "short term".
Admitting that exactly how long the "short term" is has yet to be defined by the government in relation to the issue of energy reform, he described the move as "a strategic decision given current debt obligations" of BEC.
These obligations suggest the entity needs a steady flow of revenue, which he proposed could be jeopardized if large power consumers went "off the grid".
However, Holdom said that the government need not worry too much about this outcome due to already existing limitations to the quantity of renewable power which will be produced.
"It's already been capped. The fact is they've committed to not have more than 30 percent of all generation produced by renewable energy, and its capped again by the ability of people to purchase these systems. The amount of people who can afford to buy these systems is a small percentage."
Holdom expressed concern that The Bahamas is at a "pivotal point" with respect to renewable energy and must be careful to make the right decisions or face "screwing it up" in the long term.
Echoing the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), Holdom called for the government to set out on paper its full policy position on various elements of energy reform, so as to enable transparency and proper review.
"Stakeholders need to see it. We have the expertise to say 'these are the pros and cons and this is how it will affect our business'. My greatest concern is they will get this wrong and destroy the industry."
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
MAJOR blackouts can be expected on New Providence as a result of overdue maintenance at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, PLP chairman Bradley Roberts claimed last night.
However, BEC chairman Michael Moss confirmed the corporation was close to executing a contract for repairs to one closed station, and making a determination on whether or not to overhaul two aging gas turbines.
Mr Moss said he did not expect any blackouts as the corporation moves out of the slow season.
While it was still too early to make a determination on whether stand-by generators will be employed by the corporation during the peak summer mon ...
There is a kind of madness taking grip in this country on certain matters relative to governance, the functioning of our institutions and the things we as Bahamians are asked to accept.
Nowhere has this been more on display in recent weeks than in the developments that flowed after The Nassau Guardian disclosed that Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller and his family-owned business owed the corporation $250,000.
Miller, of course, is not the only person who owes the corporation. There are also many businesses that owe substantial sums, we are told.
We revisit this matter this week because it is no doubt Miller's hope and that of the government that it will go away.
But it remains a matter deserving of attention.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, continue to remain silent after confirmation from BEC that its policy was violated when cashiers accepted a cash payment of more than $10,000 on the bill.
BEC's policy is that no cash payments are to be accepted over that amount.
Sources within the corporation confirmed that $100,000 was paid in cash.
This has not been denied by Miller or any government official.
Asked to confirm whether the payment was made in cash, the deputy prime minister told us, "I don't know how it was paid. I just know $100,000 was paid."
When we raised this matter again with Miller last week Sunday, he was annoyed that we were still pushing the point.
In a stunning statement to The Tribune, Miller said, "money is money".
The newspaper said Miller informed that he was also unaware of BEC's policy not to accept more than $10,000 cash because many "businesses have done it before".
"Money is money," he reportedly told The Tribune. "I didn't know what the policy was. If they came to my business and gave me money, paid me in cash, I would thank them again and again.
"Institutions in this country have done this before. These are petty things (that are) causing the Bahamian people to be sidetracked from what is really happening at the corporation and all the good that is being done.
"The people that are attacking me and my family are nameless, but I have a name and they are coming for me. I do not need them to like me, my record speaks for itself."
What Miller does not understand is questions relating to that $100,000 are legitimate questions.
This does not represent an attack on him or his family.
The implications of this matter being swept under the rug may be great.
It is not accepted business practice to deal in large sums of money, hence the BEC policy.
The chairman's statement that he did not know what the policy is, is startling.
The prime minister and the deputy prime minister should not accept this as an explanation.
And we the people should not accept the deputy prime minister's statement that he does not know how the money was paid.
It is the chairman's obligation to know the corporation's policies, and it is the DPM's obligation to look into the matter of this payment.
If we say we are serious about protecting the reputation of our jurisdiction, then we must at all times adhere to the highest international standards as they relate to financial transactions.
The world is watching. What signal is the government sending to the international community?
To be clear, we make no suggestions on the source of the $100,000 paid to BEC.
But we do question our disregard for standards relating to the handling of large sums of money.
This is not a petty matter.
We expected Leslie Miller to react in the manner in which he acted.
Miller is a well-liked politician who has endeared himself to the common man.
But he has attracted controversy during his years in public life and has created one embarrassing situation after the next for Christie.
At the start of the first Christie administration, Miller, who was then a minister, fueled a firestorm over firings at the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC).
He was later caught up in multiple other controversies.
We are reminded of a statement an American diplomat attributed to Prime Minister Christie in 2005.
"Some ministers, were brought into the Cabinet because of their qualifications; others, like Minister Miller, were included in an effort, at times unsuccessful, to keep an eye on what they're doing," Christie allegedly said.
We wonder now whether Christie, by his silence, is seeking to avoid a fall-out with Miller over that $100,000 cash payment, and the fact that the chairman owed the corporation so much money while demanding other businesses stay current.
We raise this issue again this week to say again that our general lack of adherence to standards and the prime minister and deputy prime minister's silence are appalling.
Thursday 20th September 2012 12:00 PM
Bahamas Electricity Corporation How does BEC calculate your monthly bill? Need to Know how to file a damage claim? Want to shave $$$ off of your electricity bill? Find out the answer to these big questions and so many more! Every Thursday @ 12noon Tune in to: BEC "Live Wire" A weekly public affairs programme discussing The Bahamas Electricity Corporation on Peace 107.5 FM with host: Steve Mckinney Featuring weekly guests from The Bahamas Electricity Corporation
PowerSecure International, Inc., which had supposedly topped the shortlist of companies tapped by the Christie administration to manage the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) - and which may already have been awarded the contract, given Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis' statement that a company had been selected - is facing two separate class action lawsuits filed in U.S. district court accusing the power management company of securities fraud.
And it is not clear whether assurances of the company's integrity - given by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry - have satisfied the Christie administration that the company is the best candidate to manage the utility.
It now appears likely that the reason for the delay in announcing the management company selected to run BEC was a desire by Prime Minister Perry Christie for a degree of certainty about the company his administration may have tapped for that job.
Christie told a newspaper while in Washington, D.C. last week that he had received "written support from the (U.S.) Embassy in Nassau, from the deputy secretary of state and the secretary of state of the U.S. government [John Kerry] with respect to a particular applicant, certifying their integrity".
"It is important that I say that because issues arise as to what is happening and especially when personalities, particularly those of us who are involved in politics, have our names called," he said. "I wanted to absolutely guarantee that we had the certification of the American government as to the integrity of the entities that we are dealing with. That has been forthcoming. To that extent we have been engaged with the American government."
Attempts by other news agencies to follow up on Christie's statement appear not to have met with success. In fact, state department officials who had allegedly promised a response to clarify what was reported as an "integrity certification" by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of PowerSecure appear to have now deflected those questions to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
No U.S. agency has as yet commented on the matter in the context of the lawsuits.
Initially, the administration had planned to make the announcement upon the prime minister's return from China in early January. However, the announcement was delayed until after the Caribbean Energy Security Summit, hosted by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. at the end of January. Christie has been back in town from D.C. for a week, but no announcement has been made about the disposition of BEC.
In 2013, the government announced a restructuring and at least partial privatization of BEC. In the beginning, the proposal was to split the company into two wings: one for power generation and the other for power distribution. Christie later decided that the focus ought to be on dealing with BEC's $450 million "legacy debt" and abandoned the idea of breaking BEC up, instead choosing to pursue a management agreement with a company that could deal with the debt. Christie and Davis have both identified the Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD) as the model for this path.
At one point, it was believed that China State Construction and Engineering Company (CSCEC) - the parent company of Baha Mar/British Colonial Hilton investor China Construction America - was the front-runner. However, once the terms of the deal changed and the Christie administration focused on management and debt restructuring, CSCEC appeared to lose interest.
Cayman-based Inter-Energy was the other shortlisted company.
The U.S. government had previously gone to bat, as it were, for PowerSecure and another U.S. company that had been in the running early on: the U.S. Department of Commerce said in a June 2014 letter to Christie and Davis that PowerSecure had "years of experience in the realm of power generation and distribution and can bring to the table cutting-edge proposals to meet today's energy needs".
The first lawsuit was filed in the Eastern Division of U.S. District Court in North Carolina on May 22, 2014, alleging securities fraud. A second suit was filed in the Western Division on July 8, 2014, also alleging securities fraud.
The lawsuits allege that PowerSecure made materially false and misleading statements and omissions about its stock, which led the stock to be traded at artificially inflated prices. These "materially false and misleading statements" resulted in the members of the class purchasing PowerSecure common stock at artificially inflated prices, the complaint says, adding that once the truth was revealed to the market, PowerSecure common stock plummeted, causing losses to the members of the class.
The reports of the PowerSecure lawsuits surfaced in the light of the revelation that Alstom SA, a French power and transportation company, had allegedly paid a bribe to secure a lucrative power contract with BEC.
The electricity assistance initiative should easily eclipse 1,000 applications as Bahamians struggling to pay their bills claw out of the dark.
As of Wednesday evening, 537 individuals had made payment arrangements to get back on the grid, according to Arnette Ingraham, head of corporate communications at Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). These customers agreed to pay the last full monthly bill, typically for a 30-day period, and then pay off their debt over a three-year period. "So if you have a $3,000 debt, you can spread it out over 36 months," she said.
Some Bahamians, Ingraham noted, opted for less than the year-end period.
"We're averaging 170 reconnections per day," she told Guardian Business. "Yesterday we connected 170. Our total reconnections should be more than 500 and I would say it's likely we'll surpass 1,000."
Ingraham said applications continue to trickle in as awareness grows for the program.
"At this point it is going very well. I would say in the next couple of days we expect many more applications," she added.
The BEC executive felt the program has been successful for all parties involved. While Bahamians have the opportunity to get the lights back on, BEC is receiving payments from those "who weren't making payments at all".
She told Guardian Business the vast majority of applications have come from residents in New Providence, although interest has also come from the Family Islands.
Last Thursday, during the opening of the Free National Movement's (FNM) Elizabeth constituency office on Yamacraw Hill Road, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the government will offer assistance to families struggling to pay for electricity.
It marks the third time the government has put in a special program to address delinquent customers.
"We not only had customers signing up at [our head office] on Friday but at our Mall at Marathon outlet," said Michael Moss, the CEO of BEC.
Energy sector policies that promote transparency, efficiency and effectiveness will create the right investment climate to attract foreign investment in renewable energy, according to a top U.S. energy official who, while pledging her country's support for the region's clean energy efforts, urged Caribbean governments to make a real commitment to the sector.
The U.S.'s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) yesterday announced that it will establish a team dedicated to facilitating growth in the Caribbean's renewable energy technologies markets by targeting deals for clean energy technology deployment throughout the region.
Robin Dunnigan, deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy in the U.S. Department of State, welcomed the initiative, stating that the U.S. is prepared to become a "very active partner" in regional reform, but noting that Caribbean governments must make a "real commitment" to developing transparent and efficient energy sectors if they are to fully capitalize on the region's unique opportunity to introduce the framework for lasting and sorely needed reform.
"As a first step, governments in the Caribbean need to make a real commitment to getting the right policies in place to make the rules in the energy sector transparent, efficient and effective, so that they create the right investment climate to attract foreign investment," she said.
The announcement came during the Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) in Washington, D.C., which gathered delegates from 16 Caribbean countries to explore methods of reducing the cost of energy in the region. Dunnigan said the summit was perfectly timed to bring matters of energy reform to the forefront of Caribbean policymaking, given the increasing competitiveness of renewables.
Collaboration with the newly-formed OPIC team, along with The Bahamas' partnerships with a growing number of renewables organizations, including the Carbon War Room (CWR) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), present the country with strong opportunities for reducing the exorbitant cost of electricity. With continued high energy costs and silence surrounding the reform of Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), energy reform has quickly become one of the private sector's top priorities for 2015.
"The timing is perfect given what's happening in the world today, with oil at less than $50 a barrel. It gives governments a little bit of breathing room in terms of purchases. Renewable energy technology is more competitive than it's ever been in the history of renewable energy. For countries that are willing to take steps to deploy more solar, wind and geothermal technologies, the time is now.
"There seems to be a real moment of opportunity to make progress in these areas," said Dunnigan, noting that natural gas offered opportunities to the region in addition to renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Dunnigan said the U.S. is working on several programs through the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide technical assistance according to the specific needs of Caribbean islands, adding that the U.S. hopes to use its memorandum of understanding with Grenada and the resulting renewables pilot project as a template for similar Caribbean initiatives.
OPIC announced yesterday that it will disburse the first tranche of approximately $43 million in financing for Blue Mountain Renewables' 34-megawatt wind project in Jamaica. The project is projected to generate nearly $90 million of investment in Jamaica's economy while also lessening the country's dependence on fossil fuels.
A top Baha Mar official yesterday confirmed that the resort plans to commission a long-discussed deep water cooling system for its air conditioning system in 2016.
Baha Mar Senior Vice President of Administration and External Affairs Robert Sands told NB12 yesterday that he is confident the earlier proposed seawater air conditioning (SWAC) system for Baha Mar would mitigate against the resort's current electricity costs and make the operation more sustainable and economically viable.
"We are still looking at deep water cooling as a form of cooling for our air conditioning system. We are hopeful that we will commission such a system, not upon opening, but some time in 2016," Sands said.
The resort announced a five-year contract for a chilled water plant with DTEC Plant Services, Ltd. in August 2014, which Sands earlier said was the first step in the resort's transition to a complete SWAC system.
Regarding the mega resort's wider power needs, Sands said the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is on track to meet Baha Mar's demand ahead of its launch on March 27 after BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller told Guardian Business that BEC is currently engaged in upgrading two of four engines to accommodate Baha Mar. Miller projected that BEC would complete the necessary upgrades by May.
"We are very satisfied that BEC will live up to its obligations to provide the necessary power demand for Baha Mar and we have been working with them for many years to get to this point. The cooperation has worked very well to date.
"There is a need for investment and upgrading. We hold the chairman and BEC to their word and we're very satisfied that they will meet their obligation to supply the power demand for Baha Mar once we are open on March 27. I can say that we have been receiving significant power from BEC to date and they have been living up to their obligations," Sands said.
We just went through the worst summer in recent memory in New Providence when it comes to power outages. Many homeowners and businesses lost equipment due to the situation. Many were enraged because family life and commerce were constantly being disrupted. The problem was equipment failure, for various reasons.
This poor service also costs a lot. Customers of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) pay for usage and a fuel surcharge. The surcharge is usually three times the usage cost.
Despite the high rates for electricity, BEC is a failed corporation. It has $450 million in legacy debt. The government has to stand behind its loans. BEC's Executive Chairman Leslie Miller has said the corporation stands to lose $30 million this year.
In this context, the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU), the representative of BEC's line staff, is in a battle with the corporation and the government over a new contract.
The full scope of the proposed contract is unknown, but Miller recently told The Nassau Guardian that he called a special board meeting to examine it and expressed several concerns. Those concerns included union demands regarding lump-sum payments and rostering, according to Miller.
BEWU President Paul Maynard has said there could be industrial action today over the impasse between the union and BEC. The electricity started going off yesterday.
At times, Miller has been intemperate with his words regarding BEC's workers. He was correct, however, when he said BEC cannot give employees what it does not have when it comes to these negotiations. He has asked the union to be "a little more reasonable, consider the plight of all Bahamians, and stop being so selfish".
The government and BEC should not offer the workers an extravagant deal. In fact, with BEC being a failed state entity that is losing money there is a need for the new deal to cut back on what was given before. No worker should expect more money and benefits when the entity paying the salaries is bankrupt.
The government has pledged to restructure BEC and allow increased private participation in the energy sector. The final decision on sector reform, however, has not been announced. Change is urgently needed, as BEC and its high rates and poor service are inhibiting economic growth.
The union should accept that the corporation is in a poor financial state. It should be reasonable and not seek more than BEC can bear - and it can bear no more when it comes to salaries. The government and BEC should also hold the line and work toward reducing costs at the corporation in order to bring some relief to BEC's financial situation.
Executives and government personnel in the U.S., the UK and Poland have been charged in connection with the plea bargain signed by French power and transportation firm Alstom SA. Meanwhile, Bahamians are waiting to see if information that may be turned over by U.S. authorities will lead to any charges in this jurisdiction.
Some Bahamians have expressed outright disbelief that any charges will be brought as a result of any investigation into allegations that Alstom bribed a Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) board member between 1999 and 2003 to swing a lucrative power contract the company's way.
Despite that skepticism public and private sector personnel are already before the courts in the U.S., the UK and Poland in connection with the case, which alleges that bribes were paid in a number of countries. On December 18, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Alstom - through its U.S.-traded and U.S.-registered subsidiaries - under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), with bribing government executives around the world to secure power and transportation contracts for Alstom subsidiaries.
The company pled guilty to the charges and agreed to pay a whopping fine of more than $770 million. The justice department said Alstom paid more than $75 million to secure $4 billion in projects around the world.
At least four top Alstom executives have been charged separately in the United States in connection with the plea deal worked out by the company in one of the largest corporate bribery cases in recent history.
Lawrence Hoskins, an Alstom Area senior vice president for the Asia region in Alstom's International Network, Frederic Pierucci, vice president of Alstom's boiler product line. William Pomponi, vice president of Regional Sales at Alstom Power US and David Rothschild, vice president of Regional Sales at Alstom Power US, were all named in the plea agreement, and all charged separately.
Meanwhile, Polish authorities this week charged five people in a corruption case involving transport contracts won by Alstom: two ex-managers at the firm's Polish subsidiary and three former Warsaw municipal employees are suspected of links to three contracts for delivering 108 subway cars and 122 tramways to the Polish capital in 1998-2002, according to prosecutors.
The development follows September allegations from Britain's leading fraud prosecutor that a British subsidiary of Alstom paid around $8.5 million in bribes over a six-year period to win transport contracts in India, Poland and Tunisia.
Also noteworthy in the Polish incident, prosecutors have charged one person with giving bribes to a public servant.
And London's Serious Fraud Office has filed corruption charges against a British subsidiary of Alstom and two employees over securing a contract for a power plant in Lithuania, according to court documents.
Bahamas Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC, has confirmed that a request has been made by Bahamian authorities for any evidence involving The Bahamas to be turned over by US authorities.
Former BEC chairman J Barrie Farrington, a number of members of the corporation's board during the time in question, and former prime minister Hubert Ingraham have all called for the matter to be turned over to the police.
Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Carl Bethel suggested the claim that a Bahamian official received over $300,000 in bribes from a French company casts the country in a negative light, and said if the government fails to properly investigate the matter, the Free National Movement would do so following the general election.
Bethel said there is "no question" that the matter ought to be a priority.
On December 22, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that French power company Alstom SA agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects.
Federal prosecutors said Alstom falsified its records and paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes for help in obtaining more than $4 billion in projects in countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.
As part of the plea agreement, the company paid a fine of nearly $780 million and also detailed its corrupt practices.
Alstom said it paid bribes totaling $325,000 to a Bahamian official to swing Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) contracts to Alstom between 1999 and 2003.
"It is a matter of concern," said Bethel when asked to respond to the issue.
"In the world outside there is a perception that could be sowed about The Bahamas. But whether it had an international dimension or not, once the information came forward it is the duty of the attorney general to exercise her powers to [seek answers] and I'm sure she's doing so."
Bethel added: "There's no question that it should and must be fully investigated. I would be shocked if it were not properly and fully investigated. Others have called for it to be done and I would only indicate that I share their sentiment.
"...If they don't, the next FNM government will. That's the first order of business."
Bethel is a former attorney general and was named a Queen's Counsel this week.
Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged that the bribery matter is very serious and assured the government was looking into it.
He said he expects answers soon.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson has requested information from the United States regarding the allegations, including the identity of the alleged bribe taker.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham told The Nassau Guardian on Friday the matter should be turned over to the police.
More than 400 Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) customers have been reconnected since the government launched its newest assistance initiative last week, according to BEC Chairman Michael Moss.
During the opening of the Free National Movement's (FNM) Elizabeth constituency office on Yamacraw Hill Road on Thursday, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham pledged that the government will offer assistance to struggling families who were without electricity, marking the third time the government has put a special program in place to assist delinquent customers.
Moss told The Nassau Guardian that 420 customers signed up for the assistance plan as of yesterday morning and most were reconnected.
When the government first launched an electricity assistance initiative more than two years ago, around 400 accounts in total were reconnected, according to officials.
"We not only had customers signing up at [our head office] on Friday but at our Mall at Marathon outlet --that is open until 6 p.m. and is open on Saturday untill 12 p.m. -- we had quite a number of persons going there to sign up on Friday [and] Saturday and Monday," Moss said.
"I would think by the end of [Tuesday] somewhere in excess of 500 to 600 persons would have signed up for the plan."
The prime minister said last week that customers will be required to pay their current electricity bill and to pay something on the overdue portion. He added that reconnection fees will be waived.
"Twice before during this long great recession we have put special programs in place to assist families to have their electricity supply reconnected," Ingraham said.
"The Department of Social Services continues to help many Bahamian families in this area every day."
Assistant Director of Social Services Kim Sawyer said yesterday she expects an influx of applications reaching The Department of Social Services for assistance with electricity bills.
Sawyer was not able to provide up to date figures for this month but explained that 23 checks were issued to BEC since February 2.
However, she said the outreach locations usually receive an influx of applications when BEC engages in disconnection exercises.
The Department of Social Services issued 166 checks in November 2011; 123 in December 2011 and 120 last month, according to Sawyer.
"Those checks were to assist persons in arrears and while some of those people would have still been connected some were disconnected," Sawyer told The Nassau Guardian.
"If someone's bill was $1,000, in that case the maximum we would give is $600, but we would try to determine if they have the ability to pay any of the difference."
Sawyer said before the government's assistance initiative, customers who were not able to pay the difference on their bills after assistance would not be reconnected and that money paid to BEC would sit on their accounts.
Up to February, 5,141 BEC customers were without electricity, according to officials.
State Minister for the Environment Phenton Neymour said recently the recorded number of delinquent accounts has consistently been around 5,000 over the last few years, suggesting that that figure consisted of "accounts that may not be in use".
He claimed the figure of actual individuals without electricity is lower than that.
The Progressive Liberal Party has suggested that the latest BEC initiative announced by the government is a Free National Movement election ploy.
More than eight companies have submitted proposals to take over functions at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett said yesterday.
His confirmation comes just one day before the government looks to have all technical proposals in.
Once that is complete, qualified bidders will be invited to participate in the second stage of the bidding process, which is expected to take place around October 1.
"To ensure that the process is transparent, I have really tried to stay away as much as possible. I do know that some of the companies are companies that are familiar to me and I would assume that they still have Bahamian equity partners in them, but I have been made to understand that we also have some new entrants into the market," Dorsett told Guardian Business when asked if any Bahamian-owned companies submitted proposals to the government.
Dorsett said the exact number of players and who they are will be revealed after Friday's deadline for submitting proposals to the government.
"The last time I had a discussion with KPMG, there were over eight companies that have registered and a few that they said were pending.
The 13th is only a short way away. We will find out what the count will be on the final day."
KPMG Advisory Services, DNV Kema and Hogan Lovells will be evaluating the proposals and making recommendations to the government. The government is also expecting to establish an evaluation committee.
The environment and housing minister was the keynote speaker at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) Meet the Ministers luncheon at the British Colonial Hilton, where he outlined the government's plans to reform the energy sector.
On August 13, Prime Minister Perry Christie committed to major reforms of the country's energy sector with a view to decreasing the cost of electricity to consumers.
He announced that after a period of around two years in which it had received a significant number of proposals and expressions of interest from private companies to provide the means to reduce the cost of electricity in The Bahamas,the government would be issuing a new and more tightly defined request for proposal (RFP) to govern the process.
The plan is now to seek the division of BEC into two entities - one that would conduct power generation and another that would be responsible for transmission, distribution, maintenance of equipment and customer billing.
The company that would control power generation would either enter into a joint venture with the government to become a part owner of the generation company, or enter into a management contract, while the company that would have responsibility for transmission and distribution would operate via a management contract.
By JIMENITA SWAIN
Guardian Senior Reporter
Bahamas Electricity Corporation general manager Kevin Basden released a statement yesterday evening explaining the persist power cuts in Abaco that led to a demonstration there earlier in the day.
The residents said the outages are impacting tourism on the island, business in general and are making life a virtual nightmare.
The power cuts have been happening since July 13.
"The present generation challenges are due to faults that developed on a few generators, coupled with a shortage of lubricating oil that resulted in two generators not being available during a 12-hour period, until additional oil was provided," Basden sa ...
If the Christie administration fails to act over the alleged bribery of a person reportedly connected to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), it would be just as guilty as the bribe taker, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis charged yesterday.
Minnis and Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins called on the government to investigate and prosecute the person who allegedly took bribes totaling $325,000 to swing BEC contracts to Alstom SA, a French company, between 1999 and 2003.
On several occasions, Minnis called on the government to identify the alleged bribe taker.
"I agree with the leader of the opposition," said Rollins during his contribution to the debate on the Electricity and Renewable Energy Amendment Bill.
"Let that man or woman be identified and let that serve as a deterrent for any future individuals who wish to adversely impact the welfare and the interests of the Bahamian people by seeking to gain a personal advantage that is counter to the interests of the man and the woman on the street that put us in the place.
"I am not suggesting that the former administration led by Hubert Ingraham had knowledge of any corrupt intention.
"But what I am saying is that someone has to answer for what happened in 2003.
"If nothing happens and it just gets buried under the rug, it means then that you have to question whether there is a sincere interest in rooting out corruption in this country."
On December 22, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Alstom had agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects.
Federal prosecutors said Alstom falsified its records and paid tens of millions of dollars in bribes for help in obtaining more than $4 billion in projects in countries including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.
As part of the plea agreement, the company detailed its corrupt practices.
Following Rollins' contribution, Minnis said, "The member is a PLP, but he spoke like an FNM."
Referring to comments made by Southern Shores MP Kenred Dorsett that the former Ingraham administration brought shame to the country, Minnis said it is the responsibility of the current government to deal with the bribery matter.
"It is the responsibility of the government to investigate, to determine who had accepted the bribe and deal with the matter, even if it calls for prosecution. We must have a change," Minnis said.
"He said we shamed The Bahamas. Well, they have an opportunity to un-shame us.
"That is what an FNM government would have done. If there is no further investigation or prosecution, or we hear nothing about this, then the present day government is just as guilty as the individual who received the bribe."
Rising to his feet on a point of order, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the government is doing all it can on the matter.
"The government today has noted what has been said and has approached the United States of America through its government in accordance with treaties that we have, requesting the necessary information with a view to taking whatever consequential action that should be taken or could be taken as a result," Christie said.
"If the leader of the opposition would wish at some stage or the other to consult on the matter, I would be willing to do so."
Former BEC Chairman J. Barrie Farrington has described the bribe taker as a "traitor" who must be revealed and "made to pay a price for this unforgiveable transgression".
Farrington called on Christie to appoint a non-partisan commission to investigate the matter and to make recommendations on how to bring conclusion to "this unwanted stain on the country's reputation".