Sears: Shell still willing to partner; other proposals coming in

Minister of Works and Utilities Alfred Sears said yesterday that Shell North America is still “willing to partner” with the government, though negotiations over a power purchase agreement have dragged on for years now and those negotiations will be passed on to a new Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) board of directors, installed only yesterday.

The new board will also have to come up with a strategy to retire BPL’s more than $290 million in legacy debt and raise money to carry out crucial capital works projects to improve electricity distribution across the country.

Shell’s power purchase agreement was to conclude with BPL having built two new power plants and with money in hand to improve transmission and distribution systems. But with the rate reduction bond (RRB) designed to raise more than a half billion dollars seemingly taken off the table, those capital projects will have to be shelved until the money can be recognized.

Sears said he could not say what strategy may be employed to raise the money need by BPL, explaining that that is the job of the newly appointed board.

“I will not preempt the board because that is the function of the board, to look at how to deal with the legacy debt at BPL,” said Sears. 

“As proposals are made from the board, I will take it to Cabinet.”

He explained, though, that he has received many proposals from companies hoping to get the opportunity to refloat the cash-strapped power company. 

“In the short time that I have been here, which is two months, proposals are coming in from… you cannot imagine the sources that are presenting proposals and are prepared to pay off the legacy debt,” said Sears.

“And so, there is never a shortage of options, but it is for the board in light of its consideration of all of the factors to put forward to the government its proposals.”

This year, WMS Holdings Limited stated it has partnered with US affiliates offering 100 percent funding to carry out the modernization of New Providence’s power system, as well as the rest of The Bahamas, at the lowest fuel price.

WMS is proposing an alternative fuel technology different from liquefied natural gas (LNG) that comes along with the funding to complete the project in its entirety.

The company stated its natural gas liquid (NGL) fuel technology would decrease fuel charges and consumer rates and is a better solution to BPL’s money woes than the proposed RRB that will see consumers’ prices increase. 

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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