By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE GOVERNMENT has selected American company PowerSecure International as the new management company for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, giving it a five-year contract to oversee generation and transmission/distribution.
In a statement released last night, Works Minister Philip Davis confirmed the decision to engage the North Carolina-based company. The Tribune understands the decision was made early this week but Prime Minister Perry Christie informed both BEC unions and executive management yesterday morning.
The process is expected to lower electricity costs, increase energy security and reliability, and increase competitiveness as a country.
“For many years now, consumers have (had) to deal with extremely high electrical bills and far from satisfactory services from an inefficient and debt-ridden Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC),” Mr Davis said. “The protracted and frequent blackouts of this week and last are constant reminders of the urgent need for reform of our electrical generation, transmission and distribution systems.
“Today, I am very pleased to announce that, with the unanimous recommendation of the task force appointed to review the proposals and its financial advisors, KPMG Advisory Services, and technical advisors, DNV GL, and as a result of an extensive, robust, and patient process, the government has selected PowerSecure International Inc as the preferred bidder to manage the new BEC, both generation and transmission/distribution, for a period of five years,” Mr Davis said.
“This appointment is subject to the negotiation and finalisation of the management contract, the major terms of which have been agreed.”
According to the statement, PowerSecure specialises in utility scale solar power through its subsidiary PowerSecure Solar and has provided both solar and storm hardening services to multiple utility customers.
“With its credits, the government is satisfied that PowerSecure has the technical and financial capacity required to manage the new BEC,” Mr Davis added. “We are satisfied that value will be extracted from the existing New Providence and Family Island generation, transmission and distribution assets and that the company can provide the advanced asset management, efficiency retrofits, improved operating schemes, fuel selection and purchasing schemes that are required to set the new BEC on course to profitability.”
He also said the company has the ability to manage the building of new, major generation in New Providence and can procure and/or manage the building of renewable energy projects in the country.
“In sum, and more importantly, we are satisfied that residents and commercial clients of the new BEC will have the customer experience that we all deserve,” Mr Davis added.
When contacted for comment before the official announcement, BEC Executive Chairman Leslie Miller would not confirm the selection but said he was happy the process was complete.
“I am just glad that part is over and now we can concentrate on getting better service for the Bahamian people and stopping all these blackouts,” Mr Miller said.
Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) President Paul Maynard confirmed he had met with Prime Minister Perry Christie on the matter, but also would not disclose the name of the management company selected. However he said the union is “happy” with the choice.
“Our main concern is making sure the members are okay and getting to a point where we can stop the blackouts,” Mr Maynard said. “This is a long time coming and now the people of the Bahamas can enjoy uninterrupted supply as well as lower electricity bills. I believe the recent power outages gave the government the extra push it needed to get things done and not waste anymore time. We look forward to working with the new people to bring about some much needed change.”
The government initially announced plans to restructure BEC in August 2013.
At that time, Mr Christie said two separate companies would take over the management and power generation at BEC. He said the contracts would be signed at the end of 2013, however the process faced significant delay. Last December, Mr Davis confirmed that the government had moved away from splitting the corporation into separate generation and transmission and distribution (T&D) arms and is instead moving forward with a business model that mirrors the Nassau Airport Development Company’s (NAD) arrangement for Lynden Pindling International Airport’s (LPIA) management.
Under that arrangement, the government will retain 100 per cent equity ownership of BEC even after the private sector manager is in place.