By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
An all-Bahamian group has partnered with an international utility in submitting a bid for one of the two Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) tenders, Tribune Business can reveal.
Sources close to the process yesterday confirmed that Northern Bahamas Utilities, a company established by former Grand Bahama Power Company executives, was part of one group bidding to win the management contract for BEC’s transmission and distribution business.
It was unclear who Northern Bahamas Utilities has partnered with, but Tribune Business was told that two US electrical utilities, Carolinas-based Power Secure, and Pike Electric Company, are both interested in the transmission and distribution contract.
And sources close to the process confirmed that the Bahamian group’s bid also involved former Grand Bahama Power Company general manager, Ken Rosanski.
Northern Bahamas Utilities was established in 2006, and its Board members include Carlton Bosfield, the former technical services director, and environmental, safety and security director, at Grand Bahama Power Company, with 36 years in the electric industry.
Mr Bosfield declined to comment when contacted by Tribune Business, but did not deny Northern Bahamas Utilities’ involvement with one of the BEC bids.
“I don’t want to comment on it just yet. Let me clear it before I comment,” Mr Bosfield replied, when asked whether he could confirm Northern Bahamas Utilities’ involvement and provide further details. “I can’t comment; I can’t right now.”
Mr Bosfield seemed to know a fair amount about the BEC bid process, referring to a “gag” that had been placed on all participants by the Government to prevent them speaking publicly.
He said he would have to “clear” anything he told Tribune Business with his Board, and also “declare” it beforehand with the KPMG accounting firm, which is managing/organising the bid process on the Government’s behalf.
Other Northern Bahamas Utilities Board members include Rodger L. S. Johnson, Grand Bahama Power’s former community and customer relations director, and transmission and distribution director, plus Alexander Brown, the utility’s former electrical and controls engineer.
Another director, according to the company’s website, is Leon Cooper, Grand Bahama Power’s former technical services manager, and plant maintenance manager.
Northern Bahamas Utilities’ involvement in the BEC bidding process, and tie-up with a multinational utility, comes as little surprise given its long-held ambitions to obtain an equity ownership interest in Bahamian utilities.
Its website makes clear that it was founded in 2006 "to pursue the purchase” of the majority stake in Grand Bahama Power Company that was then-held by Mirant International.
That dream was overtaken by events, with Mirant selling out initially to the Marubeni/Taqa group, which in turn handed majority control to Canadian utility group, Emera.
But Northern Bahamas Utilities’ goals have not been diminished. “The company intends to pursue other purchases of other companies (mainly utilities) in the region, (firstly focusing in the Bahamas),” its website said.
“The company plans to operate the assets purchased profitably, and add value to the communities in which the assets exist.”
“They are definitely utility-minded guys,” one source said of Northern Bahamas Utilities. Tribune Business was told that, until recently, the company and its founders had been focused on utility-scale, grid-tied solar power plants, prior to the Government unveiling its BEC tender.
The secrecy with which the Government has shrouded the BEC process has been effective to-date, and information has been hard to come be or corroborate, with the few details coming out often conflicting.
Still, KPMG confirmed that six bids have been put through to the current ‘pricing round’, and of those multiple sources have told Tribune Business that four are focused on BEC’s generation business - and a joint venture in that area with the Government - with the other two being on the transmission/distribution side.
The generation bidders have been harder to identify, although one is understood to be the Caribbean Power Partners consortium, headed by Taylor Cheek. Its plant construction and operations partners are Fluor Corporation, the Texas-based Fortune 500 company, and ProEnergy Services.
The identities of the others are unknown. The initial bidders were expected to feature Genting Energy and the FOCOL/Wartsila/Emera consortium, but Tribune Business has received conflicting reports as to whether they are among the final four on the generation side.
Still, this newspaper was told that all surviving BEC bidders are in town this week for “follow-ups, and one-on-one meetings with KPMG”.