Three Year Turnaround Plan

When Emera took over majority ownership of Grand Bahama Power in January 2011, they also took on the challenges of a company faced with aging generation and reliability issues. With the assistance of Emera, GBPC developed a three-year turnaround plan for improving the reliability and efficiency of electric service to the residents of Grand Bahama. Our plan has three phases – a short term, a medium term and a long term target. Here is a look at the plan:

Short Term

We knew that we immediately had to do something to address the reliability issues being experienced by residents of the island. Most notably, the issues customers faced with island-wide blackouts due to generation shortfall in the summer of 2010 could not be allowed to reoccur.

In April of 2011, 54 units of temporary rental generation were brought to Grand Bahama Island to supplant the existing generation.  The units, sourced from Aggreko who is a global leader in generator rental, represented an additional 35 MW of supplemental generation.  Reliability increased by 51% versus the same period in 2010

Medium Term

Rental generation was a short term ‘fix’ to address our service reliability. In the longer term what was needed was a new, efficient power plant. In May 2011, agreements were signed with Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor and MAN Diesel & Turbo to construct GBPC’s new 52MW base-load plant. The new facility, known as West Sunrise Plant (WSP), was designed to house 6 state-of-the-art, high efficiency MAN diesel generator sets to ensure increased reliability and to help stabilize fuel costs for Grand Bahama Power’s customers.

A month later, ground was broken on 6 acres of land adjacent to GBPC’s current steam plant. At the height of construction, the new plant provided 70 construction-related jobs to Bahamians.

The 52 MW West Sunrise Plant, an $80 million investment, was fully operational in July of 2012 and represented a key milestone in Emera’s strategy of improving service to our customers across Grand Bahama Island. The West Sunrise Plant currently employs 35 highly skilled Bahamians who have successfully completed the company’s world class operator training program.

Long Term

Alternative energy is a key part of the plan at Emera, and we see great potential in the Caribbean – particularly here on Grand Bahama – to move towards alternative fuel sources.

Our long term strategy is the evaluation of alternative fuels to further stabilize electricity prices and reduce our dependence on costly oil.

To that aim, Emera is investigating a long-term alternative energy solution that will make a good business case for our customers. Recent restructuring at the corporate level – Sarah MacDonald’s appointment to President of Emera Caribbean – will bring renewed focus and regional efforts on alternate energy solutions, in particular the possibility of bringing natural gas to its Caribbean investments.

A recent Carilec benchmark study confirmed that Grand Bahama Power’s rates remain competitive within our region, placing us in the lower end of the scale. Still, we are committed to continuing to bring efficiency – and more stable electricity costs – to our customers across the Island.

Transmission and Distribution Improvement Plans

The focus of our medium term goal has been improving generation efficiency and reliability of service to our customers. It is important that we deliver on our commitment to customers while ensuring that our employees perform their jobs without comprising on safety. Key to service reliability is a robust, well-maintained transmission and distribution (T&D) system. We brought in experts from our parent company, Emera, to support the GBPC team in the development of a comprehensive improvement plant for T&D. Our team is working hard to ensure that we deliver the service our customers deserve, safely and efficiently. Some of our improvement initiatives are detailed below:

Drawing Project

What is it?

GBPC’s key assets – its plants, T&D infrastructure – need to have up-to-date, accurate and detailed drawings on file which identifies how our equipment is connected. Over time our drawing files have become out-dated and have made responding to system issues difficult. The project is broken into phases to cover different aspects of the data collection and will include electrical and structural drawings.

Why are we doing it?

It is challenging for our skilled teams to respond to outages or trouble calls without up-to-date, accurate drawings. This project will enable more effective problem-solving, and will greatly impact the design of future upgrade or improvement projects. It’s also facilitating the discovery and management of problems with existing infrastructure. In addition, once complete, the drawings will greatly assist with another future improvement project – the re-commissioning of all substations and the Peel Street Plant switchyard.

How does it benefit you?

Responding to outages or system issues has been difficult because we didn’t have the up-to-date drawings that could show us how everything was connected, so it was hard to locate and resolve the problem.  IThe Drawing Project will enable GBPC teams to respond more quickly and understand the root cause to service issues, which translates into shorter outage events when they do occur.

Re-commissioning of all substations and the PSP switchyard

What is it?

We isolate each substation so that they are all de-energized, and then test each piece of equipment to check the integrity and to ensure they operate as designed. We will check all of the protective systems in the substations that ‘watch-over’ everything to ensure they are operating properly.

Why are we doing it?

We are undertaking this significant re-commissioning to ensure that all protective equipment in the substations works as it should. It will also confirm that the equipment and all of its wiring is connected and functioning as described in the updated drawings.

How does it benefit you?

This project will help improve system and service reliability for our customers. We expect it will result in decreased outages attributed to our T&D infrastructure.

Preventative Maintenance Program

What is it?

Other high-performing utilities within the Emera family have proactive preventative maintenance plans in place to protect T&D infrastructure, and we are putting a similar plan in place here at GBPC. The plan ensures that connections and equipment are properly maintained and operating our T&D system. The maintenance plan encompasses regular testing and maintenance of key pieces of equipment such as transformers, circuit breakers, batteries and switches.

Why are we doing it?

A formal preventative maintenance program will strengthen and protect our infrastructure across Grand Bahama Island and provide more reliable electricity service to our customers. With this program in place, we’ll catch system weaknesses before they lead to failure and outages.

How does it benefit you?

Again, this aspect of our T&D improvement plan will lead to reduced outages due to faulty equipment and improve reliability.

Customer Service Improvement Plans

Our customer service team has been working diligently to improve the quality of service we offer our customers.  We have heard what our customers have said and are applying that thoughtful input to help assist our comprehensive customer service improvement plan. Some of those plans include:

  • The development of metering policies and procedures. These are scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2013.
  • A comprehensive training program for Customer Service staff delivered by our experienced in-house trainer this year, and the development and roll-out of Customer Service procedures.
  • On-going operational improvements to further decrease the number of customer estimations (currently about 4% of our customers are estimated each month).

We also have two convenient tools geared to improving the customer service experience and assisting customers with bill paymentse-billing and budget billing.

GBPC is also in the process of implementing a fuel hedging program which will reduce the volatility of the fuel charge. This will mean GBPC’s fuel purchases will be based on an average of prices over time instead of one price in a given month. The hedging program will not reduce the long term price of GBPC’s fuel oil but rather reduce the market volatility in what it pays for oil and what its customers pay for electricity.