By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A waste-to-energy developer proposing a solution that could give the Bahamas a $3.7 billion return over 10 years yesterday said separating the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway landfill from BEC reform was “the wrong way to go”.
Robert Taft, a former senior official in President Bill Clinton’s administration, told Tribune Business that postponing any decision on renewable energy forms - including waste-to-energy - until 2014 would create a “big problem” for the Bahamas, with the decision to split BEC into two “making it worse”.
Mr Taft’s firm, USATies Inc, represents Eco-Safe Solutions, a company that has submitted a $135 million “cutting-edge technology” proposal to the Government for a waste-to-energy plant at the New Providence landfill site.
Expressing “frustration” that the Government had yet to even respond to their proposal, and the direction energy reform in the Bahamas seemed to be taking, Mr Taft described their submission as “a money making machine” for this nation.
This, he explained, would largely come from the fact that Eco-Safe Solutions’ proposal would eliminate the need for BEC’s almost $400 million worth of fuel imports every year.
Suggesting that their project, if it went ahead, could create between 100-150 jobs, Mr Taft said the waste-to-energy plant’s operating costs had been estimated at $13.179 million per year, some $7.8 million of that being labour.
Disclosing that Eco-Safe’s proposal could supply all New Providence’s power needs, Mr Taft said that apart from its $350-$400 million fuel savings, BEC could also generate $106 million in annual revenues from selling the waste-to-energy plant’s electricity on to its customers at $0.10 per kilowatt hour.
And, with inorganic waste being transformed into building, reef and land reclamation materials, Mr Taft said there was the potential to generate some $64 million in annual revenues from such ‘recyclable’ income streams.
All told, the Eco-Safe project has pegged total annual cost savings and revenues for the Bahamas at $520.254 million, with the investment gain over 10 years totalling $3.7 billion - an annualised return on investment of 185 per cent (1,850 per cent over 10 years).
Mr Taft explained that Eco-Safe would employ ESS technology that “totally neutralises” all waste coming into the landfill. He promised that the chemicals employed to do this were “benign”, and did not cause environmental or health problems, something that had been tested and affirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and European regulators.
“The difference between waste-to-energy and our system is that waste-to-energy burns everything, organic and non-organic,” Mr Taft told Tribune Business. “This system burns only the organic; the clean waste.
“Because of this, the amount of electricity generated is increased incredibly. It increases to the point where, with a 2,000 tonne plant, it could generate 1.8 billion kilowatt hours (KWh) of energy per year.
“That would be more than enough to cover all the electricity requirements for Nassau, New Providence. The prices to the businesses and consumers would fall like a rock. It’s a money making operation.”
Eco-Safe would build, own and operate the plant “at little cost to the Government” for a fixed 10-15 year period, and sell electricity to BEC via a power purchase agreement.
And, in doing so, Mr Taft said he and his partners would also eliminate the health and environmental issues that exist today at the landfill.
Noting that the Bahamas’ shallow water table meant it was vulnerable to both food (plant) and water contamination from landfill run-off, Mr Taft said of the Eco-Safe solution: “It can take everything in the Harrold Road landfill and totally reclaim it at a pace of about 500 tonnes per day, in addition to any new waste.”
Suggesting that 1,500 tonnes of waste per day went into the New Providence landfill, Mr Taft added: “This process eliminates current and future waste, and reclaims existing waste at 500 tonnes per day. By lessening that every day you’re doing a tremendous service to the country.”
Around five to six waste-to-energy proposals have been submitted to the Government, together with landfill management plans, including one by the Bahamian consortium featuring Bahamas Waste, Waste Not and United Sanitation.
Yet the Government has delayed any decision on these, and other renewable projects, until 2014.
“What’s frustrating to me is that we have a proposal that is very cost effective for the Government,” Mr Taft told Tribune Business. “It addresses the energy problem and the Harrold Road landfill problem, and we can’t get any response from the Government. It’s very frustrating.”
Mr Taft added that several government ministries had confirmed receiving their proposal, but he warned of the dangers of failing to tackle energy reform in one go, and failing to integrate renewables into the process.
“Trying to address the energy problem without consideration of waste-to-energy is a really big problem,” Mr Taft added, arguing that it still left the Bahamas exposed to fossil fuels.
“To consider Harrold Road and energy as two separate components is the wrong way to go. I’ve seen it happen in the past, and it’s not a good thing. And what makes it worse for the Bahamas is that you’re going to take the energy company and split it in two.”
Splitting BEC into its transmission/distribution and generation components would make “co-ordination” and the integration of renewables more difficult. Mr Taft said.
Eco-Safe, he added, would have enough generation capacity to prevent any ‘brown outs’ or problems resulting from maintenance.