While the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) welcomed the promised improvement in power generation from Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) with the installation of a new power plant at its Clifton Pier site, Chairperson of the BCCEC’s Energy and Environment Committee Deborah Deal told Guardian Business the process was lacking in transparency.
“It is. I’m very grateful that they did the press conference, that they finally let people know what was going on,” Deal said of BPL’s announcement Monday that it contracted Finnish technology group Wartsila to install a new 132-megawatt engine power plant.
“I’ve been getting some pretty irate messages from persons.
“They’re very upset with the fact the RFP (request for proposals) for backup generation was given to a company that was going to come in and do 270 megawatts of generation — not back up — and an LNG plant. That was upsetting. Now you read that they had contracted with a company, and I have not seen an RFP go out for that, nor has anyone else I think.”
The $95 million project includes the installation of seven new Wartsila engines at BPL’s existing Station A building at Clifton Pier.
Civil engineering upgrades have begun in preparation for the new engines that are scheduled to arrive in The Bahamas by June.
“We are very concerned about fair play for business,” Deal said.
“We really want the business community to grow and thrive.
“There may be reasons why, but again, the reason transparency is so important is, if there was a reason why that happened or how it happened, if everybody knew we probably wouldn’t be as concerned.”
There’s also the issue of BPL’s environmental footprint that Deal said the corporation has yet to address, despite moving forward with upgrades for a new plant.
“No one still is talking about the environmental concerns with the Clifton area. What’s happening with that? I haven’t seen an RFP or anything go out for companies to clean up Clifton.
“We asked, ‘Has there been an environmental assessment done?’” Deal said.
“The answer was, ‘Yes there has been.’
“We asked, ‘Can we see it?’ And the last time I was told it had to go to Cabinet or something like that. But we need to know. My thoughts are [that] a legitimate [company] – and I’m not saying Shell is not a legitimate company – would not build on contaminated property.”
BPL CEO Whitney Heastie has insisted that the new power plant by Wartsila will not conflict with the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with Shell Gas and Power Development B.V. in November for a gas-to-power project.
The MOU established Shell as the project developer for a 220-megawatt power project.
The Ministry of the Environment began construction on a $12 million bulkhead last year at Clifton Pier to prevent further oil and diesel from seeping into the adjacent seabed and put an end to a years-long oil spill at that site.
Officials have said that for at least 20 years, oil and other substances have spilled into the seabed.