By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Government plans to “aggressively explore” waste-to-energy plants both in New Providence and the Family Islands, the minister of the environment yesterday disclosing that several such proposals had been received after the administration took office.
With waste-to-energy “certain” to be incorporated into the Government’s plan to reduce electricity costs, Kenred Dorsette told Tribune Business his ministry was assessing numerous private sector proposals for a waste-to-energy plant at the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway landfill.
Pointing out that such a plant would better assist with waste management at the landfill, Mr Dorsette conceded that numerous waste-to-energy plant submissions had been received since the Ingraham administration’s 2007-2012 term in office.
“One of the things that we are certainly exploring, in view of our mandate to reduce the cost of electricity, and given that my Ministry is charged with exploring renewable energy, is accommodating the prospects for a waste-to-energy plant at the landfill,” Mr Dorsette told Tribune Business.
“We have received a number of proposals in that regard, and as part of our 100-day mandate to reduce electricity costs, I am certain that will be incorporated in that plan.
“It is important, because it will enable us to manage the landfill in a better way, and assist in the production of electricity. It is something that my Ministry is aggressively exploring.”
Numerous proposals for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant at Tonique Williams-Darling Highway were submitted during the previous government’s tenure in office, but none every adopted.
Some were submitted as part of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s (BEC) now-ended renewable energy tender, while others went directly to the Ministry of the Environment. A number were linked to, and also involved, privatisation of the landfill and its management, given that it is critical to sort waste streams before they are used to generate energy.
Confirming that the Government had not “determined at this time” whether privatisation of the landfill was a route it wanted to go, something that might disappoint the plan submitted by the consortium featuring Bahamas Waste and Waste Not, Mr Dorsette said he was also looking at waste-to-energy proposals for the Family Islands.
“There have been a number of proposals kicking around for some time, and since coming to office a number of new proposals have been submitted to us,” he told this newspaper.
“Some relate specifically to New Providence, some relate to other islands, but waste-to-energy is something we will aggressively explore.”
The Minister added that privatisation of New Providence’s residential garbage collection services was “not something we’re considering at this time”, even though he was “not entirely convinced” the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) would be able to acquire the nine new trucks it needed.
With the DEHS garbage truck fleet down to nine, and 18 required for operational efficiency, Mr Dorsette said that at a price of $300,000-$400,000 per truck, the Government was faced with an outlay of between $2.7-$3.6 million.
“It is our intention to use the private collection services until we are able to repair and purchase additional trucks to increase the number we have available to us,” the Minister added.
“We are down to nine trucks, and to operate effectively we need 18. We started off with a fleet of over 22, and are down to nine, so clearly we don’t have sufficient trucks to operate at an acceptable capacity.”
The DEHS has contracted BISX-listed Bahamas Waste, Impac and United Sanitation to assist with garbage collection in certain residential areas, and Mr Dorsette added: “There is the possibility of us probably considering utilising other companies during this time, but I don’t think we’re going to expand the routes for private collection services at this time.”
The DEHS was currently trying to get another two trucks “on the street”, with Mr Dorsette also set to approach Cabinet for the authority to purchase additional vehicles.
“They’re incredibly expensive. Prices range from $300,000-$400,000 based on quotes I’ve seen per truck,” Mr Dorsette told Tribune Business.
“So I’m trying to get the most cost-effective trucks I can find that are suitable for our climate. I’m not entirely convinced we’re going to be able to acquire nine trucks to bring the fleet back to 18.”
The DEHS is conducting assessments on which trucks can be repaired.
Meanwhile, Mr Dorsette said that “in certain areas” the Government has “piloted” increasing garbage collection frequency to two times’ per week, one eye being on the rainy season and proliferation of mosquitos. In other areas, garbage collection was occurring on a weekly basis as scheduled.