Barbados is the latest Caribbean island to feel the Emera Squeeze
by Miles Howe
On a small island north of Venezuela, 4,500 kilometres from Halifax, Barbados Light and Power (BLP) recently issued a news release. Energy use on the Caribbean island has hit a low not seen since 1974.
“Some people are now simply just turning off all the electricity in their homes, especially when they’re not home,” says Carson Cardogan, a Barbadian ratepayer. “They’re pulling out everything. Every plug. Including the fridge. People are living virtually in the dark, in order to not pay Barbados Light and Power the hefty electricity bills.”
While the average Canadian might applaud such a downward shift in power consumption, this is not a question of Barbadians “going green” by choice. It is the work of Nova Scotia’s Emera, BL&P’s new owner.
Emera, the Nova Scotia-based company with a penchant for electricity generation, moved fast onto the scene in Barbados, purchasing a 38 per cent share in the largely nationally-owned BL&P in May 2010, and another 41 per cent in January 2011. When shares in BLP were trading at $12 on the Barbados stock market, Emera, which has been making ambitious purchases and clocking record profits since 2010, offered BL&P shareholders $25 per share – an offer they could not refuse. A few dissenting voices, on call-in programs and social media panels, urged caution against selling off the national power company to a foreign interest, but the deal went through unencumbered.