Bahamian firms chosen for renewable contracts


Tribune Business Editor

Several Bahamian providers have been selected as preferred bidders to generate utility-scale renewable energy on New Providence and the Family Islands, it was revealed yesterday.

Jobeth Coleby-Davis, minister of energy and transport, in unveiling the Government’s energy reform strategy disclosed that Compass Power, Inti Corporation and Eco Energy have been chosen as the recommended independent power producers (IPPs) to generate around 70 Mega Watts (MW) of solar energy and 35 MW of battery energy storage systems on New Providence.

For the Family Islands, she identified Verdant as the preferred bidder for Abaco; Providence Advisors for Andros; Verdant again and Consus for Eleuthera; Inti Corporation on Exuma and Osprey Construction, while Wilkem Technologies and Roswall Incorporation have been chosen for Long Island, San Salvador and The Berry Islands. Power purchase agreements (PPA) and other terms now need to be agreed.

Kenwood Kerr, head of Providence Advisors, the Bahamian financial services provider that played a key role in the New Providence landfill deal, said: “We’re excited to be a part of this new energy era that the Bahamas government is launching and to be part of the solution.” He declined to comment further.

Cameron Symonette, head of the Symonette Group, is understood to be a principal of Compass but could not be reached for comment. Inti Corporation, whose head is Owen Bethel, the former Bahamian financial services executive, has played a key role in developing the first two renewable energy projects that are supplying Grand Bahama Power Company.

“Currently, we are negotiating the power purchase agreements,” Mrs Coleby-Davis said of the Family Island renewable deals. Each island has unique energy requirements and geographical constraints, necessitating a customised energy solution.

“To ensure the most suitable approach, each island’s technical specifications were thoroughly reviewed for applicability. We have finalized the design criteria in terms of agreement and selected both the microgrid controller and the communication profile.

“Long lead time supply chain equipment has been identified and their specifications have been submitted to the respective manufacturers. We anticipate that ground-breaking will begin by the end of 2024.”

As for New Providence, the minister added: “Approximately 70 MW of solar power and 35 MW of battery energy storage systems will be integrated into the existing grid. Twenty-five MW of the solar energy will be paired with the 25 MW of battery energy storage system at the Blue Hills power station.”

Turning to Island Grid’s selection as the entity that will overhaul BPL’s New Providence energy grid, Mrs Coleby-Davis said: “BPL’s transmisson and distribution infrastructure is in desperate need of upgrades as much of it dates to the 1980s and early 1990s with few enhancements to reduce significant system losses.

“BPL’s present infrastructure is crippled by the effects of climate change with soaring temperatures and natural disasters having a detrimental effect on the company’s assets.... The partnership with Island Grid will extend the infrastructure capabilities beyond what BPL alone can do by bringing in a generation and transmission and distribution expert to pursue much-needed upgrades.

“The partnership with Island Grid will lower the fuel cost, and improve operating efficiency. The benefit of this arrangement will be felt through affordable energy prices and fewer power interruptions. The upgrade of the grid will bring about a more efficient delivery of power, so less energy is wasted getting the power from the generation plant to your home,” she added.

“Third, a well-built and well-sized system will allow for lower ongoing maintenance costs than what we currently have today. All these savings will be passed along to customers.” Prime Minister Philip Davis KC, in his contribution to energy reform launch, said: “Important parts of our electricity infrastructure, including some transformers and substations, are more than 50 years old – they date back to before independence.

“It’s hard to describe the experience of listening to engineers emphasise that critical parts of our grid are on the verge of collapse, with no chance of revival once they go down. And then there are the generation engines – 60 percent of BPL’s plant in New Providence, and 80 percent in the Family Islands - need replacement within the next five years.

“So we have an aging, vulnerable, deteriorating, expensive system, dependent on heavy and diesel fuels, that cannot meet current needs let alone the growing energy needs of a digital economy, or the increased demand we have to anticipate as temperatures rise in this new climate era.”

As for the consequences, Mr Davis said: “In every conversation I have with entrepreneurs, business owners, and investors – from the very smallest to the very largest – the high cost of electricity, and the costs and uncertainties associated with unreliable supply, inevitably come up.

“For most Bahamians, the only bill bigger is their rent or mortgage payment. Major bills are a major burden, which means less disposable income, which means less spending and investment in our local economy.

“And, of course, high bills for businesses means high operating costs, affecting our competitiveness and our ability to diversify, and creating obstacles to growth and development – impacting investments, business expansions and job creation.”


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