As the capital continues to grapple with ongoing load shedding, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (BCCEC) is urging government to consider introducing an exigency order for the import of short-term backup energy solutions for residents and business.
“Acknowledging that all solutions will require short-, medium- and long-term solutions, immediate attention should be given to providing short-term relief,” BCCEC Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Beckles said in a statement yesterday.
“Such relief should include consideration of exigency orders permitting the import of backup power systems, including solar systems, at concessionary duty and value-added tax (VAT) rates, with such an initiative rolled into longer term programs to incentivize environmentally-friendly power solutions that take advantage of the country’s natural resources.”
In the chamber’s official comments on the capital’s power “crisis”, Beckles said the current circumstances of energy supply do not foster confidence and create uncertainty.
“The end of the summer months historically represents a period of significant commerce as the country readies its youth for the opening of the school year,” he said.
“However, businesses are faced with the difficult choices of having to close its doors or expending significant funds to acquire backup power supply and fueling such systems; and for businesses with existing backup power supply, that equipment is being overextended and will require significant maintenance and/or replacement costs sooner than had been budgeted. And, consumers are frustrated by meeting closed businesses or those providing reduced services, thereby creating a self-perpetuating decline in commerce.”
There was contention between Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) and the BCCEC last year over the request for proposals (RFP) exercise to provide BPL with a temporary power solution and fuel oil.
At the time the BCCEC said it was concerned that Shell North America won the bid for a new generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at BPL’s Clifton Pier plant, while private sector bidders contended they were asked to bid on a supply of temporary generators and fuel.
“The BCCEC participated in an exercise during 2016/2017 to evaluate proposals received for long-term solutions for energy generation and distribution in The Bahamas, which included replacing existing infrastructure, accommodating cleaner fuel products and providing for better price hedging opportunities. At the end of this exercise, a preferred provider was selected, and the framework was established for the terms of contract negotiations that included short-term solutions for stable energy generation and long-term solutions for energy generation, transmission and distribution at sustainable price levels,” Beckles said in his statement.
“Subsequently, a request for proposal (RFP) process was conducted in 2017/2018, in which the BCCEC did not participate. Based on matters raised with the BCCEC by certain members, the BCCEC communicated with the boards of directors of BPL requesting additional information and clarification on various matters and to date, the BCCEC has not received comprehensive responses to these matters, but remain hopeful that we will.”
Beckles said given the “significant negative impact” on businesses and the economy as a result of the recent rolling power outages, the BCCEC remains focused on BPL’s inability to provide consistent energy at sustainable prices.
“The frequency and increased length of these power outages impedes commercial productivity, reduces much-needed revenues and leads to significant opportunity costs. Accordingly, developing a long-term solution to this issue is paramount to the growth and development of businesses and in turn, the economy of The Bahamas,” he said.
“The BCCEC has been and remains committed to the process of addressing the historical energy problems of The Bahamas, including leading fact-finding missions to Jamaica, Barbados, Florida and Aruba during the period 2016, 2017 and 2018, to better understand best practices. These efforts were entirely funded by the members of the BCCEC.”
Beckles said the BCCEC remains available and committed to supporting BPL, its board of directors and management team, and national policymakers.