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$30m Smart Meters Will Help Monitor Bpl's Bills

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) will invest $30m in rolling-out Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that it sees as critical to slashing delinquent private sector debts, its chairman revealed yesterday.

Dr Donovan Moxey told Tribune Business that the funding has already been budgeted, and contractor selected, for an initiative that will “put the power to manage” energy consumption in the hands of BPL’s household and business consumers.

The AMI initiative, which was on the drawing board under the previous Darnell Osborne-led Board, will introduce the concept of pre-paid metering to the Bahamian electricity industry for the first time. Much like pre-paid cell phones, consumers will be able to “top-up” their new meters as they go, with the technology-based platform also providing apps and mobile links.

Bahamians will thus be able to control their energy consumption as opposed to the present system where many Bahamians and households run-up huge bills they are unable to afford, but only become aware of this after the fact - much like a post-paid mobile phone customer.

BPL’s hope is that, besides preventing consumers from falling into a financial hole that ultimately ends in their disconnection from the electricity grid, its AMI plans will also prevent the build-up of more than $66m in delinquent debt owed by households and businesses that it is carrying as a receivable on its balance sheet.

And, although Dr Moxey did not directly say so, the AMI initiative will likely form a key element in BPL’s strategy to ensure it collects all the debt servicing fees that will be levied upon consumers to pay the interest owed to investors from its $650m bond refinancing.

Tribune Business reported earlier this week that the greatest weakness, or ‘Achilles heel’, of the National Utility Investment Bond is BPL’s legacy woes in collecting all sums due from customers. Failure to improve in this area could potentially result in insufficient income as the bond debt falls due, and lead to compliant consumers bearing an increasing burden on behalf of their bill-ducking counterparts.

“One of the things we’re looking at doing, and it’s something that we’ve talked about before, is implement AMI,” Dr Moxey told Tribune Business. “We’ve allocated $30m in the budget for AMI implementation. We’ve also approved the vendor for that. AMI is definitely one of the tools that is going to help us.”

The BPL chair described the AMI roll-out as “a very powerful platform” that will provide the state-owned utility monopoly and its consumers “with the infrastructure to improve customers having more flexibility in managing electricity and paying their bills”.

While unable to specify how much consumers will pay to service the National Utility Investment Bond, or the potential impact on total electricity bill amounts, Dr Moxey urged Bahamians to view this as “making a small investment that is going to secure the future of the country”.

He added that their contribution to BPL’s refinancing would ultimately pay significant dividends via lower electricity costs that will more than offset the bond servicing costs, with the utility able to provide a more stable, cheaper power supply via the Wartsila engines and partnership with Shell for the new multi-fuel power plant.

Disclosing that BPL was “hitting the reset button”, Dr Moxey said its transformation strategy will result in “the creation of a brand new company” as part of the Government’s mandate that it “fix the energy problems in this country once and for all”.

“People have to understand what BPL is going through now. We’re looking to hit the reset button,” he told Tribune Business. “We’re creating a brand new company. Folks need to understand that is the goal here. It’s not easy to turn the ship, but when we do it will be a game changer for the economy.

“Bahamians have to recognise that if we’re doing this kind of change it will help everybody. Everyone will have to contribute in some small way. What’s being asked of Bahamians is to make an investment in the future of the country.”

Dr Moxey said the bond issue’s price (interest rate) and consumer debt servicing charge had yet to be determined as the process of placing the $650m issue was “still in flux”. BPL, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will issue the bonds, and their advisers are now waiting for the issue to be given a credit rating - something that will signal to the capital markets the price investors should pay for the bonds based on the risk the borrower may be unable to repay.

He pledged, though, that BPL would seek to minimise the financial pain for consumers. “There will be a change in the structure of the bill with respect to the fee, but our goal is to make sure the overall cost is not a significant impact to the overall bill,” Dr Moxey said.

“We’re working to make the impact neutral, and when we bring in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and new generation we’ll be looking to reduce the cost of electricity. We want to do this with minimal impact to the Bahamian people, our customer.”

Describing the upcoming changes at BPL as “transformational”, Dr Moxey said he was “very confident” that the 132 Mega Watts of (MW) of new generation capacity being supplied by Wartsila will be online by the mid-December deadline.

With these engines set to produce around two-thirds of New Providence’s 200 MW-210 MW winter demand, he voiced optimism that the summer-long nightmare of three-to-four hour outages and blackouts will now be past history.

“Myself and the chief executive visited the plant on Monday gone, and everybody we spoke to - including the project managers - indicated they are well on schedule and have no issues they can foresee that will delay the December 15 date,” Dr Moxey added.

“The 132 MW is the largest single plant ever installed by BPL. It will definitely improve supply reliability, no question about it, and because of the higher efficiency engines there will be a lower cost of fuel to produce power, so customers will see those savings.”

The BPL chairman, though, confirmed that “no decision” had been made on the proposal for the utility to become Shell’s joint venture partner in the new 222 MW power plant it will construct in southwestern New Providence.

“We’ve put some ideas, thinking forward, but there’s nothing on paper, nothing signed as yet,” Dr Moxey told Tribune Business. Describing the negotiations on a final agreement with Shell as “progressing well”, he added that year-end 2021 was still the target date for completing the power plant and nothing had emerged to suggest there will be delays in that timeline.

Comments

K4C 3 weeks, 3 days ago

smart meters in Ontario Canada a DISMAL failure

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The_Oracle 3 weeks, 3 days ago

God forbid you put smart meters on delinquent Government accounts. Also be aware of the smart meters potential to burst into flames. Proven. They are plastic, not glass. They burn. $66 mil delinquent, but over what time period? how much has been written off as uncollectible over the last 5/10/20/30 plus years? 3 years in and Shell is still hanging in? Kudos for having patience with our incompetent utility operators. How does hitting a "reset button" wipe away the debt, the mess, the incompetence, the legacy of disgrace that is BPL/BEC?

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John 3 weeks, 3 days ago

So rather than reduce the cost of electricity, BPL is saying to the Bahamian people, "it is wat it is, now police yourself, put $10 to run you for the weekend and stay in the dark until the next paycheck, bor. ANd they can also disconnect you remotely;ly now. No need to come in ya yard and put lock on the meter for you to call one of your friends to unlock.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Desmond Bannister, Donovan Moxey, Whitney Heastie and Paul Maynard should all be sharing the same small prison cell.

And just guess who are the local frontmen (muck-a-mucks) for the $30 million smart meter contract that will force BPL's customers to pay-in-advance for electicity at exorbitant (extortionist) rates.

This ridiculous initiative will not identify and do anything about the many businesses and residential customers throughout New Providence who have illegally tapped into BPL's power grid and are receiving the benefit of unbilled "free" electricity at the expense of billed paying customers. These electricity thieves and the politically connected "do-not-disconnect" customers are the real reason why BPL cannot get a handle on its operating costs and soaring receivables.

But rather than address the root cause of BPL's revenue and receivable problems, the simpleton corrupt bastards, i.e. Bannister, Moxey, Heastie and Maynard, would rather enrich one or more of their muck-a-muck crony frontmen with a $30 million pay-in-advance system that is so obviously doomed to failure.

Like Turnquest and Minnis, the four named morons just don't understand that there are no longer enough wealthy Peters left for our Robin Hood government (and BPL) to rob in order to let the Pauls have a "free" ride for political gain. As the old addage goes, you can't draw blood from a dry stone and most of the stones in the Bahamas are already bone dry.

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DWW 3 weeks, 2 days ago

it aint' gonna do nofin bot de Do not disconnect list

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tom1912 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Well the thing one must know about smart meters is that your utility company not only doesn't need meter readers but can also selectively cut you off remotely, so you can imaging the fun that will be had when load shedding is carried out, even more favouritism;-)
Tom

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Porcupine 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Now I understand the great clamoring to find oil. Just like the numbers houses. Can't make anything else work in this country, so let's just wait till our number falls. Or, we strike it rich with the black gold.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Thankfully the geologic background of every square inch of the Bahamas, both above water and under water, is very different from the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal areas much closer to Latin American land masses. There isn't a drop of oil to be discovered by exploration anywhere within our nation's territorial borders except (1) what was blown into our waters by Dorian from the extensively breached Equinox/Statoil storage facility, (2) what was in the illegal ballast/bilge discharges from Carival's cruise ships over decades (in addition to all of the shiit from their passengers), and (3) what has been negligently leaked over many years from Shell's sea to shore transfer facility at BPL's Clifton Pier plant. Yet the very greedy James Smith continues to be a very willing participant in the swindling of foolish foreign investors who have been conned into exploring for oil in our territorial waters. And just like there are many dishonest lawyers, there are many dishonest geologists.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks ago

Oops! Auto spellng mispelled Equinor as Equinox.

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TheMadHatter 3 weeks ago

These people have no hesitation in wasting $30M of our money. Bring in some efficient generators and stop this foolishness before it starts please.

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Islandboy242242 3 weeks ago

I thought there were already issues with the grid and transmission lines? How can you communicate back and forth with BPL if the power lines are garbage? It's one thing for BTC top-up to go down, but you gonna tell me "our smart meter system is experiencing technical difficulties" and I can't power my house? Seems like a bad idea, we aren't ready for that. Added expense for BPL, added complication for both parties, and we have too poor of an infrastructure for this.

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totherisingsun 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Think off grid solar with 3.5 kw wall mount backup generator and bypass all the nonsense and transference of costs to the consumer.

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