The Most Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis Prime Minister
BPL Ceremonial Inauguration New Engine at Blue Hill Thursday, 5 March 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today’s ceremony represents another major investment in the future of the Bahamian people.
It also represents a critical step in the ongoing transformation of the energy sector.
We are entering a new era in The Bahamas.
Longstanding problems like the restoration of Grand Bahama, the problems at the New Providence Landfill, and the problems of generating adequate electricity on New Providence are at long last being fixed.
It is unfortunate, but not surprising, that those who failed to fix these problems and who made them even worse, are now bitterly complaining about the progress being made to improve the quality of life of Bahamians and residents.
But today is about the future not the past!
Decades of promises and more promises, and decades of talk and more talk, have given way to decisive action to improve the daily lives and future of families and businesses.
For decades, high energy costs have been an extraordinary burden on the Bahamian people and businesses.
The actions we are taking will reduce the cost of living and the cost and ease of doing business in The Bahamas.
We are putting the literal dark days and decades of load-shedding behind us.
Because a robust energy sector is vital to our economic development, my Government pledged to ignite an energy revolution.
Today, as we formally inaugurate the addition of this new technology to BPL’s generation fleet, it is clear we are in the midst of this transformation and revolution.
Our goal, over time, is to reduce dependence on various fossil fuels and to aggressively utilize more renewable sources of energy including solar energy.
We are improving and modernizing our current energy production and distribution methods.
Today is a powerful and tangible demonstration that we are delivering on our energy goals and objectives.
Further, once BPL and Shell have completed their negotiations, Shell has committed to constructing an LNG regasification facility at a location near the Clifton Pier Power Station.
This revolutionary step means that after more than a decade of talk, LNG will become commercially available in The Bahamas.
This means that BPL will be able to switch all of its newest generation assets – including this new TM2500 – to LNG.
This will help to usher in a new energy future for The Bahamas.
The new TM2500 supports my Government’s push toward cleaner, more reliable, less expensive energy.
The flexibility of the new machine with regard to the types of fuel it can burn, with no appreciable loss in output, is vitally important to us as we seek to reduce our carbon footprint.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The mismanagement and poor choices by previous governments in respect to the basic service of electricity was astounding.
The crises that we faced due to this neglect manifested itself with businesses having to close, with families having to eat dinner in the dark and much needed money being spent on alternative power options.
Indeed, one of the most vexing issues that frustrated Bahamians for decades was the failure of the state to consistently generate and distribute sufficient electricity to consumers.
We have heard promises from many officials over the years, but still the state energy supplier was unable to deliver – especially during peak demand season in the hot summer months.
Today, because of the global climate emergency our summers are hotter and hurricanes are becoming stronger and deadlier because of our warming waters.
Last summer was particularly burdensome, miserable, long and hot here in New Providence in terms of prolonged blackouts.
There was extended and significant disruption to family life and to businesses.
Instead of fixing first BEC and then BPL over the many decades, the country just kept renting more and more and even more generators.
It was like putting Band-Aids on an injury that needed radical surgery and a permanent fix.
Along with this equipment crisis at BPL has been its financial crisis.
The Government of The Bahamas had to step in to back BPL’s debt.
Decades of short-term decision making, poor choices and in some instances, corruption, brought BPL to its knees.
What we witnessed last summer was a symptom and a poor legacy of a collapse that started at BPL many, many years ago.
My Government made a decision not to make any more short-term decisions when it came to BPL and to energy generation and distribution in our country.
We decided that someone had to fix this problem here and now.
With this generator, Station A and the renewed focus on solar energy, we are doing the smart and fiscally prudent things that must be done to ensure reliable power for all of New Providence.
This generator will be added to the battery of improvements to our power generation and it is fiscally smart.
It will allow BPL to begin to draw down on rental generation which will lead to millions of dollars in savings.
There is still work to be done, but with every step we take, we are getting closer to the fundamental promise of reliable and cost effective energy for the residents of New Providence.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
There are other rays of hope and light on the horizon!
Hurricanes Irma and Dorian forever changed how we deal with the generation and distribution of electricity throughout our far-flung archipelago.
Hurricane Irma devastated Ragged Island and Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes in recorded history, devastated Abaco, the Abaco Cays, and parts of Grand Bahama.
In rebuilding the communities ravaged by the effects of these monster storms and climate change we must rebuild stronger, smarter and with greater resilience.
This past Sunday, the CBS 60 Minutes program did a segment on The Bahamas called an Array of Hope.
The 60 Minutes segment described how we are responding to the effects of the global climate emergency in terms of increasingly powerful hurricanes.
Because of the geography of our far- flung and low-lying archipelago, we are very vulnerable to rising seawaters and powerful storms.
But we also have a geography of hope and resilience.
We are blessed with almost perpetual sunshine and the ability to turn this sunshine into renewable energy to power our homes, our businesses, our schools and churches.
We can transform this sunshine into a more sustainable and brighter future.
We can show the world how to “move forward after a devastating hurricane.”
During my interview with the 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker I said: “Let us show the world what can be done … We may be small, but we can set an example to the world.”
Though it may be expensive in the short- term we are utilizing Ragged Island as an example and laboratory to rebuild with resilience in the face of powerful hurricanes, including Category 5 storms.
On Ragged Island we are using a micro- grid or solar panels to bring reliable energy to the island.
“[The] micro-grid [will] allow the island community to be disconnected from the traditional BPL energy grid and operate autonomously.
The $3 million micro-grid is now under construction and is being built to withstand winds of up to 180 mph, while providing clean, low-cost energy for Ragged Island.
We also have ambitious plans to solarize some of the Abaco Cays and areas on the Abaco mainland devastated by Dorian.
We are working to do so through public- private partnerships.
We have a begun a program of installing such grids on New Providence to help power various public buildings.
Solar energy and other renewable sources of energy are part of our broader and ambitious vision and agenda to revolutionize and transform the energy sector in order to build a modern 21st Century Bahamas.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We will deliver more secure, more efficient, cleaner and less expensive energy for Bahamians and residents.
There is still much work to be done.
But we are on the way to a much better and more secure energy future.
Let me end by thanking all of those who made today possible.
May the God of New Beginnings bless our Bahamas.
Thank you and good afternoon.