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News Article
BEC: Bill must be applied to 160M fund

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation's (BEC) pension fund is worth in excess of $160 million, but legislation and reform is needed to protect the interests of public entities.
During a debate on pension reform in the House of Assembly yesterday, BEC Chairman Leslie Miller lauded the introduction of the Employees Pension Fund Protection Bill. While in the past pension funds have operated unchecked, the legislation would provide a framework to manage the industry and offer assurances to members that their investment is protected.
Miller charged legislators, however, to take the landmark legislation a step further.
He said that the government must consider making the bill retroactive to include former City Market workers, hundreds of which are now fighting to receive pension payments long after the supermarket chain's demise.
Miller also expressed concern that the bill does not include public corporations.
"My main concern is a public corporation is owned by the people of The Bahamas," he said. "It is their hard-earned money that allows the government to initiate the investment in getting them off the ground and it is imperative and our duty to see to it that it applies to those public corporations so there won't be abuse or misuse of funds under those corporations."
The chairman said that employees at BEC have "not contributed a single penny" to the pension fund.
He further insisted that, in the future, it should be mandatory that any contributions by the corporation should be matched by employees.
"I personally don't think it's fair that the people of The Bahamas carry that burden," Miller said yesterday.
The disclosure by the chairman follows a second reading of the Employees Pension Fund Protection Bill last week.
Michael Halkitis, the state minister of finance, outlined a number of provisions under the bill, most notably the formation of a Pension Commission to serve as a watchdog.
"Some of the penalties are much higher than we are used to seeing," Halkitis added, referring to those charged with infractions.
"However, they are meant to serve as a deterrent."
Also last week, a copy of an audit of the Bahamas Supermarkets Retirement Trust was circulated among media outlets, which highlighted a number of issues on the accounting procedures and investment strategies of its administrators.
Covering the period July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2010, the audit alleged that outsourcing the fund would result in better accounting standards and a more diversified investment strategy.
According to the audit, which was submitted in the Supreme Court last year, the trustees were appointed by the committee, who were in turn appointed by the board of directors at Bahamas Supermarkets Limited (BSL).
"The committee members themselves were officers and directors of BSL. Yet the trustees chose not to engage independent auditors of the trust, or to review the trust under International Standards if Auditing applicable to reviews," the report stated.
Now, in 2013, it is unknown whether there is any pension money left for City Market workers.

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News Article
Hotels must address 'tremendous' energy wastage

Audits have found Bahamian hotels could be saving "a minimum" of 30 percent on their energy bills through a variety of "no-cost, low-cost and mid-cost" efficiency measures, a sector stakeholder has revealed, arguing that there is a "tremendous amount of wastage" that could easily be reduced with serious benefits to hotels' bottom lines.
Where steps towards energy efficiency require financing, Frank Comito, executive director of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA), said policy support from the government could allow for The Bahamas to benefit from or emulate innovative financing mechanisms that are developing elsewhere in the region.
Fresh from attending the Caribbean Tourism and Energy Forum (CTEF) in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, Comito said hotels in The Bahamas are "lagging behind in best practices, even on the fundamental things they can do to be more energy efficient".
As a result, The Bahamas is behind the curve regionally when it comes to addressing high energy costs in the sector, with this having knock-on effects on the competitiveness of the tourism product.
His comments suggest that while the focus has traditionally been on the need for the government to take action to reduce energy costs via reforms such as those which are presently underway at the policy level with respect to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, there is much more that can be done at the company level to lower costs.
Speaking of lessons learned at the forum, which was attended by several Bahamian delegates, Comito said: "From the specific presentations we saw, we are still not seeing enough being done to reduce lighting costs, air-conditioning and refrigeration costs, and perform regular and basic maintenance on appliances and motor-driven equipment.
"Hotels are also wasting a large amount of water, which has a corresponding impact on energy costs. I was a member of the opening stakeholders panel, and each of the panelists, myself included, pointed to the tremendous amount of wasted energy by hotels and countries because of the 'culture of usage', which we live in.
"Throughout the region, and certainly in The Bahamas, much more can be done by our people to reduce the amount of wasted energy," said Comito.
This concern was backed up by energy audits recently conducted on Bahamian hotels this year under the auspices of the Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency Action Programme (CHENACT), an internationally-funded program which has sought to identify how local hotel properties can reduce their costs through energy efficiency measures.
Comito said preliminary findings from these audits, which will continue into the new year, are that hotels can save a minimum of a third of their current energy costs without a great deal of investment.
Even as hotels lag "on a fundamental level" in terms of their implementation of best practices that could cut costs and address "basic competitiveness" issues compared to their regional peers, Comito said that the forum also made it clear that at the governmental level there is more that can be done in The Bahamas, notwithstanding the fact that the Bahamian government has indicated its intention to move towards energy reform.
"We are lagging. Our policies are outdated, particularly with regard to our public utility. The more progressive countries appear to be ones with privately run electricity utilities, something which the Bahamas government has indicated it is moving towards in part," noted Comito.
CTEF, which was held from December 10-11, billed itself as the first event to focus exclusively on lowering the electricity bill for the region's hospitality sector.
"There is no greater threat to the competitiveness of Caribbean tourism than the price of electricity. With rates which soar close to 50 cents per kWh in some markets, the impact on bottom line profitability is crippling. Yet the region's hospitality industry has found it challenging both to save energy and to generate it," the forum's organizers state on the event's website.
Financing mechanisms
Comito said that the International Finance Corporation (IFC) reported at CTEF that it will be establishing a fund specifically for the Caribbean to assist with developing ESCOs - energy service companies.
Such companies typically develop, install and arrange financing for projects designed to improve the energy efficiency of companies.
Comito said he is hopeful that once all of the CHENACT audits are complete, Bahamian hotels that require financing for some of the more advanced energy efficiency measures can begin to tap into some newly-established financing mechanisms.
"By mid-year, we're hoping that we can start serious discussions on financing models that could be considered for The Bahamas," said Comito.
The tourism executive noted that a number of financing models were shared at CTEF from which The Bahamas could draw inspiration as it seeks to reduce its energy bill, including private sector-led models in the Dominican Republic, Brazil and Colombia which received some measure of support from their governments and multilateral organizations.
"To make the financing mechanism workable in The Bahamas, we will need to have policy support from the government and the local banks will need to work with the sector. Multilaterals like the IDB and IFC will need to guide and assist with our efforts.
"Key though, is a commitment by the hotel owners, managers and employees to becoming more efficient and investing through practices and money in reducing their costs," he said.

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News Article
Impasse in union negotiations with BEC

The Bahamas Electrical Utility Workers?Union (BEUWU) and the executive management of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has reached an impasse in their contract negotiations and strike action could come at any time, according to BEUWU President Irvin Dean.
The Nassau Guardian understands that 30 minutes into talks yesterday morning, both sides failed to reach an agreed position in negotiations, which resulted in the breakdown.
“We gave management notice that we are resorting to industrial action effective immediately. It does not involve a work stoppage, but what it does involve immediately is that we will not be working overtime. My membership is agitated... Strike action could come ...

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News Article
Miller slams Emera on energy costs

The chairman of Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) accused Canadian energy giant Emera yesterday of maximizing its profits "on the backs of the Bahamian people".
Leslie Miller, who is also the member of Parliament (MP) for Tall Pines, singled out Emera in the House of Assembly yesterday in a discussion on crippling energy prices across the country. Grand Bahama Power Company, which holds a monopoly on the island, is majority owned by Emera. The Canadian multinational has invested tens of millions in recent months to bolster infrastructure and efficiency on the struggling island.
It has also remained vocal on its commitment to the gradual reduction in energy bills.
However, Miller attacked Emera for imposing high energy prices on residents and businesses, which in some cases are triple the costs of consumers in nearby Florida.
"Here is a company that wants to make a profit in five years and pay off its debt on the backs of the Bahamian people," he announced yesterday.
The comments were partly spurred by news that the energy giant is considering a major multimillion-dollar investment in natural gas for the region.
Chris Huskilson, president and CEO of Emera, exclusively told Guardian Business last week that natural gas is integral to bring down the cost of energy. He noted that a specific team focused on natural gas for the region will be formed to bolster commercial and engineering capacity.
"We have earmarked capital to work through this natural gas approach and that could see tens, if not hundreds of millions in investment if we see the next step working," Huskilson said. "From an organizational perspective, we have a large capacity to raise capital."
The president identified a "common need" in both The Bahamas and Emera's interests across the region for natural gas.
For his part, Miller agreed that natural gas is cheaper and cleaner, offering a much better alternative to the oil, gas and diesel imported by the public corporation at great cost. The generators at major power plants could be repurposed to accommodate natural gas.
However, in the House of Assembly, he dismissed any notion of working with Emera given their activities in Grand Bahama.
"Tell him to go to Freeport and take the burden off the back of our people," he said yesterday.
In September 2008, Emera purchased 25 percent of GBPC through its acquisition of 50 percent of the shares in ICD Utilities Limited. In December 2010, Emera acquired an additional 55.4 percent interest in GBPC, bringing its direct and indirect interest to 80.4 percent.
ICD Utilities sole asset is a 50 percent stake in GBPC.
Since arriving in Grand Bahama, the company has committed to a gradual decline in electricity prices as it invests in infrastructure and efficiency.
In a statement to Guardian Business yesterday, Emera said there is no "overnight solution".
"While our rates remain competitive in this region, placing us in the lower end of the scale, we continue to work tirelessly on improving our service and stabilizing electricity rates for consumers," it read.
The company further noted that new $80 million West Sunrise Plant has helped improve reliability and stabilize rates. But the largest driver of electricity costs for consumers, Emera said, is the dependence on fossil fuels.
Sarah MacDonald, the president and CEO, of GBPC, has recently been appointed president of Emera Caribbean. The idea, according to Emera, is to apply a renewed focus and consolidate efforts towards alternative energy solutions, "specifically the possibility of bringing natural has to our businesses in the Caribbean".
"We understand that energy costs remain a concern for our customers, as they are for people around the world, and we have been working diligently on several fronts to address those concerns," Emera said in the statement.

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News Article
Dr Duane Sands fed up with BEC excuses

FNM Deputy Chairman Dr Duane Sands said he is "fed up" with the many excuses the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has given for the numerous power outages on New Providence in the past few weeks.

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News Article
Govt approves 22 for road works relief

With just 10 days left to apply, the Ministry of Finance has received 58 applications and approved 22 businesses under its road works relief plan.
The government held a press conference yesterday at the Prime Minister's Office to encourage more Bahamians to seek compensation. According to Michael Halkitis, the state minister of finance, approximately 800 businesses in the capital were negatively impacted by the road works and could be eligible for relief.
"January 18 is the deadline, so we encourage those businesses who have not already done so to submit their application," he said. "We are very encouraged by the geographic diversity of applicants, from Robinson Road, Market Street, Blue Hill Road and Prince Charles Drive. The program has been embraced by large and small businesses, the most attractive feature being the electricity rebate and micro loan facility."
Back in November, Guardian Business exclusively revealed that the government's road works relief plan would include a menu of exemptions and benefits for businesses, including a 10 percent discount on electricity bills for 18 months, a six-month credit on customs duties, competitive loans from the Bahamas Development Bank and relief on property tax and business licenses for six months.
However, the plan has also been tweaked along the way.
Perhaps most significantly, Halkitis said yesterday that businesses with branches outside the impacted areas will also be allowed to submit for benefits. While he did not wish to mention any specific businesses, that should be music to the ears of large chains such as Superwash and Super Value.
"They will be considered as well. They will be treated in the same way," Halkitis explained.
The government has also added a program whereby applicants can receive a deferred payment plan for electricity bills. Customers that have been disconnected, and want to reconnect and eliminate arrears within a 24 month period, can do so based on regular, irregular or lump sum payments.
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) will not charge a reconnection fee to these businesses, according to the plan.
Halkitis told Guardian Business that the micro loan option, allowing any business to borrow up to $10,000 from the Bahamas Development Bank under attractive terms, was especially helpful over the holiday season for restocking products.
The total size of that loan facility is $3 million for all businesses.
In all, the plan has been valued at around $15 million, although the state minister of finance noted that very little cash will be put on the table by government.
"Most of this plan is non-cash. The government is not coming with up with grant money," Halkitis explained. "We are using some of the receivables BEC owes the government, for example, so it's not direct cash."
The road works relief plan has been highly divisive among the business community.
The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) came out in support of the plan late last year, prompting Rupert Roberts, the owner of supermarket giant Super Value, to declare his resignation from the organization.
The Coconut Grove Business League has also voiced strong opposition and continues to seek legal action against the government.
The disastrous road works, implemented by the Free National Movement, spiraled more than $100 million over budget and well behind schedule.

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News Article
Suicide suspected after body found

POLICE are investigating an alleged suicide after a man was discovered dead with a necktie around his neck.

Trevor Thompson, 49, was found in his home at Lumumba Lane, off Fox Hill Road, shortly after 4pm on Friday.

It was reported that the man had been an employee at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation.

Police arrested a man at the scene on Friday, which led to claims that he was a suspect in the case.

However last night, police spokesman Supt Stephen Dean said the arrested man had been picked up on a pre-existing warrant and was not considered a suspect.

Foul play is not suspected.

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News Article
Full slate for Abaco Business Outlook

By JAMMAL SMITH
Guardian Business Reporter
jammal@nasguard.com
The status of the controversial new Wilsonâ City power station and the long term plans for health insurance will be some of the highly anticipated topics discussed at this year's Abaco Business Outlook.
The one-day seminar is being held on September 22 at the New Visions Ministries Center in Marsh Harbor, and will include a number of speakers that will focus on the island's opportunities for economic growth.
One of the main topics of discussion at the seminar will be the status of the new power station for Abaco.
Chairman of The Bahamas Electricity Corporation Michael Moss said the new facility in Wilson City will be ab ...

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News Article
Sun Solutions 'exploding' as first orders arrive

A surging renewable energy company is looking to hire at least 200 workers now and possibly thousands in the future as the business of installing solar panels on rooftops goes from science fiction to reality.
This week, enough solar panels to power 30 homes arrived in Nassau from the U.S. in Sun Solution's first major foray into the market.
"Things are exploding now," said Lincoln Bain, one of the company's founders.
"We saw the demand and the boom, and now things are coming into place. We're looking for 200 people immediately and we probably have 15 right now. We already have a list of people who are interested, and we need more electricians and general laborers."
Offering a renewable energy system for as low as $3,600 per person, the hundreds of panels now in Nassau present a scenario where the demand outweighs the labor market - an ideal scenario in a country struggling with unemployment.
Since launching last month, Sun Solutions has registered thousands of orders and has been unable to cope with the demand.
"We stopped taking money because it was getting out of control and we don't have the electricians. There are lot of people out of work.
"We need a whole crew," Graham Weatherford, the other founder of Sun Solutions, said.
"I'm talking about careers here - this isn't a job to sweep the road for six months. It's a career in the renewable energy sector. In my mind we need at least 1,000 electricians, 1,000 helpers to get this stuff on the roof and another 1,000 carpenters. That's 3,000 jobs, at least."
Weatherford said Sun Solutions isn't interested in fully employing electricians, but instead training them through government grants so they can become entrepreneurs and private businessmen in their own right.
Bain also announced that the company has come to an understanding with certain local banks to offer loans with zero money down to purchase the solar panel system.
Payments would be between $100 and $200 per month.
Bain said Bahamians can begin to decrease their lofty Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) bills and eventually stop making payments entirely.
"We understand that for many people the main issue is cost," he said.
"So they can finance this with no money down, and over time, they'll have no bill for the rest of their lives."
Whether or not residents get off the bill entirely depends on the size of the system, he pointed out. Clients can start with a basic system for $3,600, reducing their BEC bill, and over time add to the system with the savings until they're entirely off the grid.
"Instead of paying $400 to $500 bills, pay $100 or $150 per month for the system, and then in several years pay nothing," Bain added.
"That's not really a risk."
Weatherford felt another challenge for the company will be to get consistent power to the 6,000 or so people he speculated were without electricity in The Bahamas due to financial reasons.
For now, they just need manpower to pull it off.
"So I'm asking for all the Bahamians to step forward," he said. "I have careers for you -are you ready?"

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News Article
Roberts: Taxpayers losing out with new straw market

Bahamians will have a new Bay Street straw market that is 20 percent the size of what makes sense for current and future usage, but costs $5 million more than what was budgeted for by the Christie administration, former Minister of Works and current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Bradley Roberts has claimed.
Roberts said this will include $16 million in construction costs and $11.2 million in "stop, review and cancel compensation fees".
He made the remarks during the opening of the PLP's Job Creation and Empowerment Summit at Workers House on Tonique Williams-Darling Highway on Wednesday night.
Within weeks of coming to office in 2007, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced in the House of Assembly that his administration was canceling the straw market contract the Christie administration entered into earlier that year with Woslee Construction Company.
This meant that all the professionals involved in the contract had the rug pulled from under them.
The government has never detailed the financial loss to the public as a result.
But Roberts said the cancellation resulted in a loss of the $2.3 million construction deposit; loss of fees due to the termination and hiring of new architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and a general contractor; and additional legal costs for attorneys or arbitrators in respect of a recent judgment against the government.
The Nassau Guardian recently reported that an arbitrator has determined that the Ingraham administration was in breach when it canceled the contract.
As a result, retired Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Thompson determined that the government must pay damages to Arconcepts Ltd., the architect and lead consultant for the contract.
The government must also pay damages to the sub-consultants -- George Cox and Associates, the project's structural engineers and Pyramid Industries, the mechanical contractor.
"Who here thinks that Bahamians just have money to throw out like that?  Who here believes that Bahamians deserve better, deserve a government ready to invest in them instead of throwing money out for political reasons?  They didn't do right by the straw vendors.  They didn't do right by the Bahamian people.  They just looked after themselves."
Roberts said the government "which has presided over massive job losses has to tell 190 vendors that they cannot be accommodated in the new market".
As minister of works, Roberts was intimately involved in negotiations for the contract signed under the Christie-led government.
He noted that the PLP administration executed a contract to build a 165,000 square foot market for $22 million, including a Bahamas Electricity Corporation electrical infrastructure upgrade, accommodating 630 vendors in stalls no less than 48 square feet in size.
The cost of the construction was then estimated at $133 per square foot, Roberts said.
"It was a good design at a good price," he said.
"The FNM's response?  They cancelled it.  They couldn't let the PLP take credit, after all.  Remember, they always put politics first, they never put Bahamians first."
He said the Free National Movement government executed a new contract to construct a 37,000 square foot market tendered at a cost of $11.2 million, excluding BEC electrical infrastructure upgrades.
"The cost of this project, now in the final stages of completion, has been revised upward to $16 million," Roberts said.
"Instead of accommodating 630 craft vendors it can only accommodate 440 vendors.  Instead of stall sizes of 48 square feet, the stalls are only 12 square feet.
"The adjusted cost of construction for this mini-facility, which makes no allowances for growth or variety, has been estimated at $432 per square foot -- $301 more per square foot than that contractually agreed under the PLP government."
He said the PLP's proposed straw market was a four-story structure with the rooftop fourth level dedicated to other income generating amenities, such as restaurants, entertainment facilities and a 100-foot tall panoramic observation tower.  It had scope for expansion and further variety and would have cost taxpayers $133 per square feet, Roberts repeated.
In contrast, the newly constructed market is approximately 2.5 stories, with one floor designated to accommodate vendors and no room for growth or expansion, according to Roberts.
All things factored in, the estimated overall development cost for this market is $27 million or $730 per square feet, he said.
"You don't need me to do the math - you're paying a lot more for a lot less," Roberts said.
After canceling the straw market contract, the Ingraham government signed a contract with Cavalier Construction for a new market, which replaces the market destroyed by fire in September 2001.

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News Article
Seeing is believing for energy savings

A big part in managing your energy use effectively goes beyond changing habits or improving the efficiency of your appliances.
In order to get on the right track, some level of monitoring is important.  As the old saying goes - seeing is believing.
A very first step can be achieved by ensuring that you understand how the utility is charging you.  All consumers may wish to take advantage of the website set up by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC).
By placing the following in your browser you can go straight to the page that shows you how to read your bill: http://www.bahamaselectricity.com/myaccount/how_to_read_your_bill.cfm.
For commercial customers, the rates and rules are different, as these clients are charged for peak demand, actual usage and the fuel surcharge.  I encourage all consumers to read through the information on the site and sit with the utility if necessary to ensure you understand how you are being billed.
It's a good idea to collect and retain at least 24 months worth of bills and track how your kWh usage changes from month-to-month to see if you pick up any patterns.
Once you understand your bill, there are any number of products out there to help you determine which devices are really consuming the most energy.
An inexpensive but powerful device is the Kill-A-Watt power monitor.
You can simply insert this device into the wall receptacle and then plug in your two pin appliance.  It has a digital display that will let you see how much power is being consumed when your device is on at full blast, as well as when it is supposed to be off.
This device is useful for determining  which of your small devices use the most power.  The results may surprise you.
The Energy Detective is useful for residential consumers and offers the ability to see in real time your consumption of power. I like the version that requires a wireless internet connection and would recommend having a professional do the installation.
You can do the software set up yourself. Once installed, you can go through your regular routine over the course of the day and see how your power consumption changes.  Very revealing will be how your usage changes when your home is unoccupied.
For a bigger investment, The Green Switch can be utilized to cut phantom loads (power used when appliances are technically turned off but are still consuming power when plugged in) without having to walk around the house to do so. Large consumers may find it helpful, and cost-efficient, to monitor the entire facility, but it can be easier to simply watch the big guzzlers such as pumps, refrigerating equipment and air-conditioning systems.
A few of the suppliers of data loggers are Dent, Onset and Fluke.  Look around, speak with suppliers and find out what is the best product to suit your needs.
For the commercial customer, seven-day monitoring will allow you to identify excessive peak loading.
For example, if all of your big air-conditioning units start up the same time, you may wish to offset the start times so as to avoid the peak demand.  Remember, the utility company is looking out for these peaks in your demand and will charge you for them accordingly.
So anything you can do to reduce peak loading will reduce your bill.  Further, this type of monitoring can help you identify if large machinery is operating when their usage is simply not required.
For most operations, you would expect to have a dip in consumption at the end of the work day. If this is not happening you would be able to detect this with effective monitoring.
As with any attempt to make changes, such as dieting or exercising, a long-term strategy involving measuring your progress is essential for staying on track.
Find the best method to match your budget and behavior.

Challenge for this week:

Make it a point to ensure you know how to read your electricity bill.  Keep at least two years worth and see which months you seem to consume the most kWhs.

We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com.
 
Sonia Brown is Principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd and is a registered Professional Engineer.

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News Article
Who owns the roads anyway

Dear Editor,

There was a facetious tone to my last letter about the cost of the road project to Bahamians.  I should have enjoyed whatever hilarity came my way.  I have spoken to a friend who has a closer vantage point and the joke is really on the public and myself if what he says is anywhere near the truth.
We were aghast recently when the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) hinted that they may need to dig the roads up again, and we thought it was an incredulous statement to make.  But it seems like BEC is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to their participation in the road project.
It is alleged that when BEC is granted a date to put their portion of the infrastructure in place, they are given the run around or blocked out to the point where they cannot do what they have to do.
Here is the interesting part of the allegation; when that "window" has passed, the site where the work is being done is now "owned" by the agency that is doing the road project, and BEC has to pay a fee to do whatever it is they have to do. Sometimes it is laying a line in the country in which they are the sole provider of electricity.
And there is another wrinkle.  If any damage occurs to BEC's infrastructure during the roadwork, the road work company is not charged.  However, the same thing does not apply if damage is done to the Bahamas Telecommunications Company or Cable Bahamas's property.
What is going on here?
BEC is having weekly meetings with the road project people but it seems that there is a three out of five chance that some area is going to be thrown into darkness because a transmission line is hit, even though schematics have been provided to alert the agencies involved as to where the underground utilities are.
The amount of digging going on also indicates that more than the road project people are involved in this exercise, and BEC or Water and Sewerage Corporation does not have enough staff to keep tabs on this kind of hyper-activity.
An investigation is needed, if only to ascertain if BEC is paying through the nose for something that the consumer is eventually going to have to pay for.
An accounting must be done of any and all agencies and companies being paid for the work they are doing in this project.
There is a history for this kind of activity but it has usually happened with buildings where public money has been spent and no work done, and, no one held accountable by government administrations.
Accountability has to begin somewhere and this road project is a good place to start.
 
Yours etc.,
EDWARD HUTCHESON

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News Article
BEC's Human Resource Manager Is Boss of the Year

Marisa Mason-Smith, Human Resources and Training Manager at Bahamas
Electricity Corporation has achieved many distinctions in the course of her
career. None has made her prouder than being named Boss of the Year for 2010 by
the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP), Bahamas
Branch.

On
receiving her award, Ms. Smith said, "I was humbled because it's a competitive
and prestigious title. I am very honored to have been chosen to receive this
international award...

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News Article
US firm to generate electricity from tropical waters in the Bahamas

Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation (OTE Corporation) from Lancaster, Pennsylvania (US) has won a contract to design its first two commercial plants that generate electricity from temperature differences in ocean water.

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News Article
Chamber: 'Time is of the essence' on energy reform

"Time is of the essence" when it comes to energy reform, and a government decision that will reduce energy costs must be made "as soon as practically possible" to offset the "long-term negative effects" on disposable income of value-added tax (VAT) and other measures, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) has warned the government.
Writing in a letter sent to Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis and other key officials, the BCCEC, which yesterday released a major report on the potentially massive economic impact of an energy overhaul, spells out the importance of minimizing any further delays in a decision on reform.
"It is critical that decisions that will reduce energy costs are implemented as soon as practically possible in order to lessen the long-term negative effects on disposable income as a result of the introduction of value-added tax (VAT), along with other increased taxes and costs implemented in the past 18 months. While there will be no immediate dramatic decrease in electricity costs, the selection of appropriate sources of energy generation and service providers, along with upgrades in transmission and distribution channels, could provide significant reductions in costs in less than two years," BCCEC Chairman Robert Myers and Vice Chairman Gowon Bowe state in the letter.
The chamber also argued that it is nonetheless "imperative" that the government include all stakeholders, including the BCCEC, in the process, imploring the government to reconsider an offer made by the BCCEC to "collaborate with it in the process of evaluating the appropriate means of power generation, transmission and distribution, and ultimately the selection of suitable service providers".
The chamber suggests that it has specific expectations for any provider selected through the reform process. These expectations arise out of a report produced for the chamber (see page B1 of Guardian Business) by consultants Oxford Economics, on energy generation and its economic impact, which looked at the major cost savings, and spin-off economic benefits, to be derived from incorporating alternate fuel sources Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and pipeline gas into the country's energy generation matrix.
Their expectations include ensuring that any provider selected must "guarantee significantly reduced" energy costs; have ties to "low cost sustainable fuel sources"; a proven track record, "vast experience, and impeccable references" based on provision of services in the Caribbean, Central America and/or North America; and have a solution for the "extinguishment of the existing debt at BEC and related government guarantees".
In addition, the provider should deliver "better quality power, cleaner emissions and less pollutants to the environment," state the two BCCEC executives, with such specifications key to ensuring that any deal signed provides for the opportunity for higher GDP growth and lower unemployment.
The letter was sent out by the BCCEC this week to Christie, Davis, Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett and Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle, along with the report by Oxford Economics, a U.K. consultancy, titled "Economic impact of the Bahamas Generation and Utilities Corporation (BGUC) proposed power plant facilities in The Bahamas".
BGUC is one of the bidders in the BEC reform process, and includes U.S.-based Caribbean Power Partners, Fluor Corporation and Pro Energy Services.
The analysis suggests that installing new power production facilities, which BGUC proposes to do at its own cost, along with utilizing natural gas - either shipped or better yet, piped - would generate major power cost reductions in The Bahamas.
In doing so, it should spur significant increases in GDP, employment and investment.
Guardian Business understands that the BCCEC partnered with BGUC and Oxford Economics to produce the report after finding itself locked out of the BEC reform decision by the government, which has been shrouded by the use of a non-disclosure agreement that binds all involved from discussing the process openly.
"People may pick on how we arrived at the end result, but if the government had collaborated we wouldn't be in that position. The only way we could get that information to feed into Oxford Economics was to pick someone who had the information. We picked someone, and the process wasn't perfect, but the focus needs to be on the numbers versus how we got the numbers.
"Rather than this being a recommendation of BGUC specifically, we wanted to use it to show them what savings are possible. We chose a route that would allow us to understand the economic impact and this company helped us get there," said Myers in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday about the decision to go ahead with the report, adding: "They can't dispute the numbers; the energy cost savings".
Myers reiterated that the chamber does not understand why there has been such a significant delay in concluding the BEC reform process which began in August of last year.
By releasing the report, the chamber could essentially be construed as putting further pressure on the government to justify why it is delaying the BEC decision and further energy reforms which could reduce the cost of power to Bahamians, and spur growth in the economy.
Should the government move ahead with a proposal that involves primarily powering the country through natural gas this would mean a major shift from the current status quo, cutting out BEC's current major fuel supplier, BISX-listed FOCOL, from a large chunk of business. However, the report suggests that in doing so, it could generate major economic benefits as a spin-off.
"The numbers with whatever form, diesel, or gas - gas being the preference - the reductions in costs to the consumer, the government and the public are massive. The knock-on implications are even larger; you become more competitive, you've got considerably more disposable income now left at the feet of government and the public, so that will have a positive impact on GDP and it will counter balance to a great degree VAT," said Myers.

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News Article
A reflection on Robert Kennedy's Presentation and its Bearing on the Country

Dear Editor,
The room was packed at The College of The Bahamas on Monday, January 21 at 11 a.m. when Robert Kennedy Jr. addressed students, staff and faculty of the college as well as interested persons from the wider community.

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News Article
BEC middle managers to take 'immediate strike action'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Staff Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

MIDDLE managers at the Bahamas Electricity Corporation have decided on strike action "effective immediately."

The Bahamas Electrical Utility Managerial Union (BEUMU), which represents around 100 members, is at odds with the Corporation over an industrial agreement.

Ervin Dean, union president, said: "We have resorted to strike action effective immediately.

"We have been meeting over the past several weeks and basically accomplished nothing. We have asked them repeatedly to comply with the industrial agreement, they have refused. They have refused to budge."

Mr Dean said his union is trying to get BEC ...

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News Article
Miller apologizes for BEC blackouts

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday apologized for the recent outages and said BEC is working to prevent further service disruptions.
On Wednesday, thousands of customers were impacted after lightning struck a generator at the Clifton Pier power plant, Miller said.
This resulted in several units tripping offline, according to the corporation.
Miller noted that BEC technicians have since brought those units back online.
"We have all the engines now," he told The Guardian yesterday.
"Clifton is running at [optimal levels], so we're in good shape.
"We continue to get lightning strikes out at Clifton. They have the lightning arrestors on there, but the strikes are so massive they cause intermittent problems.
"So we're trying now to get some new arrestors to try and solve the problems. [These are] the summer months, so you'll have those things."
Asked if customers should expect more outages, Miller said no.
However, he added, "We don't predict nature".
"If the lightning comes and the rain follows, these things happen. I don't know if you want me to talk to God. You want me to give him a call?" he asked chuckling.
"When you have lightning strikes, the machines automatically cut off to save the machine from any serious problems. Then you go and repair whatever damage is done. It's very minor damage most of the time."
BEC spent about $5 million in the past six months upgrading the Clifton Pier power plant in a bid to cut down on energy costs.
Miller told The Nassau Guardian last month that the upgrades will also help to prevent blackouts as a result of load shedding once the summer months roll in.
"We don't expect any blackouts," Miller said.
"We spent significant money refurbishing the engines at Clifton and we did so with very little outside help."
Miller said the upgrades resulted in the increased use of the Clifton Pier power plant, which also resulted in a decreased fuel surcharge.
He added that BEC is seeking to cut down on its reliance on the Blue Hills power plant, as it is more expensive to run.

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News Article
Visiting U.S. Official Meets with Key Energy Stakeholders

Nassau, Bahamas - On Tuesday, January 22,
U.S. Chargé d'Affaires John Dinkelman hosted an event at Liberty
Overlook in honor of Mr. Gary Ward, the Director of American Affairs in
the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Policy and International
Affairs. The Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Renward Wells, The Hon.
Leslie Miller, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Bahamas
Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Mr. Gilles Deal, Energy Officer in the
Ministry of Environment and Housing were among the senior Bahamian
government officials at the event.

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News Article
BEC reviews four 'serious' NG proposals

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is reviewing four proposals touting the use of natural gas to generate electricity in The Bahamas, according to its chairman.
Leslie Miller disclosed that the "four serious proposals" before him outline the procurement of natural gas for New Providence over the next 10 to 15 years. He insisted that the public corporation is "still on board" with replacing oil and gas as the country's fuel to generate electricity.
Miller told Guardian Business yesterday that the market has changed and natural gas is now in great abundance in the U.S., making it "less expensive" than most energy sources. While the fuel has become cheaper in recent years, he admitted that it could still cost the government in excess of $200 million to make the conversion.
"We have to take a look at it and see the viability of it here in The Bahamas, and see whether it's worthwhile for us to put that kind of funding into the infrastructure that is necessary to enable us to use and retrofit some of our apparatus at Clifton. It's a very expensive enterprise. LNG (liquefied natural gas) is still on the board. There are four serious proposals before us in regards to LNG and the procurement of LNG for New Providence over the next 10 to 15 years," Miller explained.
"The market has changed. The whole world has switched now to LNG because it's the cheapest, safest gas and the wave of future enterprise. Natural gas is now in great abundance in the United States. They are going to be one of the world's greatest suppliers in three years. Instead of being a net importer of LNG, they are going to be among the top three exporters. So the whole market has changed. Canada is exporting LNG."
Miller's comments to Guardian Business came at the start of the 13th Annual Caribbean Energy Conference at Atlantis.
Phillip Paulwell, Jamaica's Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, served as one of the featured speakers at the conference. He told Guardian Business that
natural has not yet been introduced in his country - but a decision is expected to be made this week.
"We did inherit the LNG project, which we intend to determine next week one way or the other based on a final submission. We have to ensure that whether it's LNG or any other energy source, it is in fact lower for the consumer. It must be substantially lower between 15 and 18 cents if we are going to have a fighting chance. That determination will be made next week," he said.
Paulwell added: "What we are doing right now is evaluating where we are at and the prices do look high. This is a recent phenomenon. Since the earthquake in Japan, they have shifted from nuclear to LNG, we have seen the price of oil escalate. It's expensive for countries like Jamaica, so unless you can get the price of LNG somewhere between $10 and 12, it's not going to be feasible. That's where we at now."
As for BEC, Miller pointed out that BEC is in the process of putting a new plant at the Clifton Pier site with three 42-megawatt engines. That venture is expected to cost $285 million.
"The investment in The Bahamas for a regasification terminal here at the Clifton Pier will exceed $200 million. It's almost prohibitively expensive but that would take care of our generation needs for the next 10-12 years in New Providence. That's what is needed to satisfy the demand for the electrical power in New Providence," according to the chairman.

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News Article
Govt eyes 700M deficit

A key advisor to the Christie administration says the government will likely have to borrow an additional $150 million to service commitments not fully accounted for in the original budget.
James Smith, who is also a former state minister of finance, noted that the new government had "very little input" and insufficient time to craft a rock-hard assessment of spending. When the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the May election, much of the budget had already been crafted and a number of debt obligations were on the books.
"There was no time," he said yesterday.
"After sitting in for a while, you begin to see things you wouldn't have known from the outside. One of those things was a number of projects in different stages in the pipeline that were not funded."
As an example, Smith referenced the expansion of the critical care block at Princess Margaret Hospital as a major liability to be reckoned with.
The project, initiated under the Ingraham administration, should eventually cost around $60 million to complete and another $50 million to outfit with medical equipment.
The PLP has also had to engage in special borrowing through the Inter-American Development Bank to fund the disastrous road works project. In addition, the government has introduced new programs such as the Mortgage Relief Plan and the Road Works Relief Plan, although these initiatives are expected to have a relatively modest impact on the public purse.
What it adds up to, in his estimation, is more borrowing to the tune of $100 million to $150 million.
That's in addition to the government's original $550 million deficit for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which ends in July. The government also has a rising debt-to-GDP ratio of approximately 60 percent after including liabilities from public corporations, such as Bahamas Electricity Corporation, Water and Sewerage Corporation and Bahamasair.
"I think what has happened is when you have a change in government at that time, a full accounting didn't take place of the work in progress or commitments," Smith added.
The government is expected to make an announcement on the borrowing sometime in February when presenting the interim budget.
Earlier this month, State Minister of Finance Michael Halkitis said spending commitments and unforeseen circumstances will mean more borrowing, although he did not go into specifics at this time.
He did not respond to Smith's comments before press time.
"If we have to do anything additional, it will be because we have to pay for what they call prior commitments, things that have been purchased that there was no money for and anything unforeseen, like contingencies, things that come up," he told reporters. "But we'll get a full picture during the budget."
Late last year, Moody's downgraded the country's economic from A3 to Baa1. It was the second downgrade by the international rating's agency in as many years.
Analysis told Guardian Business from Wall Street that the most recent downgrade was not entirely the fault of the current government. While the PLP has inherited some difficult circumstances, Moody's also urged the government to move faster in achieving cost-cutting measures and bringing on new streams of revenue.

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News Article
Government to pay 18 million to BEC

By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net

THE Ministry of Finance plans to allocate $18 million to take a sizable chunk off the government's electricity debt.
In announcing the payment to the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) in the House of Assembly yesterday, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said there is "far too much wastage" in the public sector where energy consumption is concerned, and the government is "determined to make significant improvements.”
Last year, Michael Moss, BEC executive chairman said the government's account was $40 million in arrears.
Mr Ingraham said the government was trying "to do a better job at keeping current ...

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News Article
BEC union head claims bonuses now approved

The management of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) has decided to pay bonuses to BEC workers, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Stephano Greene confirmed last night.
The decision came days after the executives at the corporation reportedly decided to defer bonuses.
Greene said staff at BEC got word from both management and BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller yesterday that bonuses will be paid next week.
Miller previously said that he sent a letter on Monday to BEC General Manager Kevin Basden indicating that a decision was made to defer the bonuses until the corporation is in a position to pay.
Greene said yesterday that BEC workers were relieved that the ordeal was over.
"It wasn't healthy," he said. "It wasn't necessary.
"We are happy that we can now sit to the table and build a relationship with the corporation and the chairman."
Greene noted that the union is willing to sit with the government to negotiate its industrial agreement.
"Anything they want to propose we will sit with them and discuss," he said.
Miller said last week the BEC employees may not get the $1.4 million in bonuses they expect to get this month.
"BEC has lost $22.6 million," Miller said. "There is no way we could afford to give them a bonus when we are losing $22 million."
But Greene had said that workers were expecting to receive their bonuses.
He said it would have been a violation of the union's industrial agreement if bonuses were deferred.
Miller was unavailable last night to comment further on the issue.

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News Article
Visiting U.S. Official Meets with Key Energy Stakeholders

Nassau, Bahamas - On Tuesday, January 22,
U.S. Chargé d'Affaires John Dinkelman hosted an event at Liberty
Overlook in honor of Mr. Gary Ward, the Director of American Affairs in
the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Policy and International
Affairs. The Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Renward Wells, The Hon.
Leslie Miller, Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Bahamas
Electricity Corporation (BEC) and Mr. Gilles Deal, Energy Officer in the
Ministry of Environment and Housing were among the senior Bahamian
government officials at the event.

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News Article
Road worker electrocuted

A man was electrocuted as he worked on the Airport Gateway Project yesterday morning, authorities said.
Officials said it happened when a truck he was working on came into contact with an overhead power line.
The victim, identified only as a 48-year-old Jamaican man, was working near the intersection of Blake Road and John F. Kennedy Drive when the accident occurred.
According to a worker on the site, the victim was helping unload fill from a truck.
The man, who did not want to be identified, said the victim pulled a lever on the truck to release the fill. That's when the truck made contact with the electrical line.
When The Nassau Guardian arrived on the scene, the spot where he was reportedly standing when he pulled the lever was black and burnt.
The tires on the truck were also burnt.
The driver of the truck was unharmed.
Police said the incident took place around 9:45 a.m.
Underground technician Bradford Wallace, who was on site when the accident took place, said he witnessed the accident.
"I was standing at a distance of about 200 to 300 feet," Wallace said.
"I noticed the dump truck lifting to dump the fill and while it was lifting it touched the electrical line overhead and I saw a bunch of sparks, fire and smoke.
"I drove down closer to the site and noticed a gentleman lying on the ground. He had bad burns about his body."
Wallace said the incident has renewed his concerns about safety on the project.
"I think whoever's in charge should have the power turned off until they have the road complete because this is like the third time I've see incidents like this happen," he said, claiming that the other two incidents were not fatal.
"I think it's really dangerous working with this power and the trucks have to be lifted to unload the dump fill."
In a statement, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) expressed condolences to the relatives and colleagues of the victim.
BEC declined to give further information as the matter is under police investigation.
However, the corporation pledged to continue to work with the developers of the road project and all of its parters "to ensure the safety of workers and the general public during any project that directly or indirectly involves BEC's infrastructure".
This is the second fatal accident at the Airport Gateway Project this year.
Tyson Miller, 26, was crushed by a trailer in January. The accident happened near the roundabout at John F. Kenney Drive and Gladstone Road.
Miller slipped and fell in front of the moving trailer, officials said.

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News Article
Moody's Urges Less Public Spending

As the government prepares to release its interim budget, top ratings agency Moody's is urging a redistribution of spending and tangible evidence of new revenue steams. Ed Al-Hussainy, assistant vice president and analyst at Moody's, said The Bahamas should...

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News Article
Abaco residents say power outages chasing tourists away

By JIMENITA SWAIN
Guardian Senior Reporter

jimenita@nasguard.com

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 ...

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News Article
Island-wide power outage

THE BAHAMAS Electricity Corporation experienced a power outage affecting the entire island of New Providence this afternoon, according to the untilty's public relations officer Arnette Ingraham.

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News Article
The disgrace of our Post Office
The disgrace of our Post Office

How long does it take for a delivery truck to drive from a bank on Frederick Street in downtown Nassau to Cable Beach? Maybe 45 minutes on a bad traffic day. How long does it take for the Bahamas Post Office to deliver an ordinary letter that distance? How about 20 days. And from the BEC office on Baillou Hill Road to Cable Beach? How about 21 days via our Government-run postal service?

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News Article
BEC WEIGHS OPTIONS ON BAHA MAR

By JAMMAL SMITH
Guardian Business Reporter
jammal@nasguard.com
A$20 million upgrade to the power generating infrastructure of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation(BEC)is the primary option being considered to meet the projected energy demands for Baha Mar, said BEC Chairman Michael Moss.
The alternative to that upgrade would be the construction of a new$45 million 30-megawatt plant, Moss added.
He said the corporation is hoping that an upgrade to its current infrastructure will be enough to handle the energy load from the mega resort.
Moss told Guardian Business that if the
efficiency of its current power plants could be improved, this would delay the need for a new plant.
"We may be able t ...

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