Categorized | National News

New Energy Minister Says Light Bills Soon Lowered BPL informed URCA fuel charges have peaked

By Licec Bastian

In October 2022, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) announced an initiative to increase its fuel charge to reflect the rising cost of fuel and to clear some of the outstanding debt it owed on prior fuel purchases. But that will soon come to an end as the power giant has informed the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) that BPL has reached the peak in fuel charges. “In recent discussions, BPL confirmed that fuel charges have reached their peak and customers can expect lower rates moving forward. The company has confirmed the fuel charge will decline this month for many consumers and will be reflected in those consumers’ electricity bills next month,” URCA said. On last Friday, the new Energy Minister Jobeth Coleby-Davis, also confirmed with the media that BPL consumers will soon see a decline in electricity bills following a conversation she had with its CEO Shevonn Cambridge. “I did have a conversation with the management, well the CEO. He is out of the country, but we did have a conversation over Zoom, and he provided me some input on their gliding scale. And that the impact and the loads that we would have experienced over the summer is now coming to an end. And so they [consumers] should be seeing some relief. “I’m not sure what the date is, so I don’t want to quote a month. But I’m hoping that it will be soon, because it seems as if the major part of the scale is coming to an end now,” Minister Coleby-Davis said. Last year BPL noted that there would be a rise in electricity bills which would be done gradually through the use of a glide path strategy. Its increase in fuel charges sparked outrage among consumers with many reporting the doubling and tripling of electricity bills from one month to the next, which started back in May this year. URCA in a statement last Wednesday said it “has received an increasing number of complaints from customers of Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) about high electricity bills. “Part of URCA’s remit as the regulator for the electricity sector in The Bahamas is to ensure consumer protection and support appropriate billing. URCA considers electricity a basic necessity that should be affordable and remains concerned about the impact of high electricity bills on BPL’s customers and the economy,” the regulator’s statement said. When Prime Minister Philip Davis announced last October the fuel charge increases for BPL he noted that monthly bills for BPL consumers would go up over 12 to 18 months before they come down. Many Bahamians were irate, considering the fact that during the summer months particularly, the power company often conducts long bouts of load-sharing. Since May of this year, many of BPL’s customers have taken to social media sites complaining of their high electricity bills. Minister Coleby-Davis said she too has experienced a higher electricity bill. “I’m a part of it. I also have an electricity bill that I need to make sure is down. And so, I’ll be in the back end internally, trying to make sure we do the right thing to bring some relief to the citizens,” the minister said. URCA’s statement noted that it was monitoring the situation. The regulator also sought to give an explanation as to why some consumers may have had high electricity bills, noting that is it typical during the summer months. “In reviewing consumer complaints, URCA has found that consumers have unfortunately experienced the compound billing effects of increased demand during the summer months and the increase in the fuel charge via the glide path strategy. “Typically, some people’s consumption of electricity doubles in the summer months due to air conditioning and children being home from school. The doubling of consumption multiplied by the fuel charge, which is almost three times what it was last summer, means many consumers’ bills are significantly higher. “BPL’s glide path strategy was designed to slowly increase the fuel charge to a peak this summer and then decrease the fuel charge continuously through the end of February 2024. By March 2024, BPL is expected to have paid off its outstanding fuel debt. This means that as of March 2024, bills are expected to only reflect the actual cost of fuel used in supplying consumers. “At that point, provided the market price of fuel remains the same, or decreases, the charge for fuel will naturally decrease. Hence, consumers will receive a lower bill for the same amount of consumption,” URCA said.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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