A senior government minister has taken the Barbados Light and Power Company (BLPC) to task for lacking foresight and focusing on the bottom line above all else.
The island’s sole electricity provider was chastised by Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office with responsibility for coordinating infrastructural projects, Dr William Duguid during debate on the Catastrophe Fund (Amendment) Bill in the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
He claimed the BLPC, which is before the Fair Trading Commission seeking a rate increase, had opted not to upgrade its electricity poles several years ago, although that would have made the island’s electricity infrastructure more resilient in times of natural disaster.
“A company focused on the bottom line and not understanding their social responsibility, I have a problem with. Companies in this country and companies that are essentially monopolies, whose responsibility it is to provide electricity service to the houses and businesses of this country, should do everything in their power to make sure that their infrastructure is protected,” he contended.
According to Dr Duguid, before Canadian company Emera took over BLPC in 2011, it was proposed that the utility provider replace some of its wooden poles around the island with hollow concrete structures which would be more wind and storm resistant.
Although not saying explicitly who the proposal had come from, the Minister claimed that was quickly dismissed when the power company was acquired.
“It would have built resilience because concrete light poles of the same weight or less than the wood can resist what we call torsion and tension… and these light poles would not have been placed all over –you do it in terms of what we call redundancy,” he said.
“They do 5 000 light poles a year, I am told; there are 80 000 light poles in Barbados so in about 14 to 15 years they would have been able to replace all of the light poles across this nation with a better, more resilient pole…. You know they shelved that when the company was changed? They shelved it because they said ‘oh, where we come from has a lot of wood, and in any event if they have a catastrophe they will have no one to sell electricity to us so there is no rush to put back on electricity service’.”
Minister Duguid, criticising this approach, contended that the protection of the island’s infrastructure should be seen as paramount to any utility service, particularly one that provides electricity service. (SB)