By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday hit back at the Opposition for criticising the government’s selection of an American company to manage the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, and blamed the FNM for offering “plenty idle banter” instead of providing plans to better manage the corporation.
Mr Roberts also chided FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis for publicly “conceding” that his party has no energy plan for BEC, He said Dr Minnis’ “public confession and concession” makes the opinions of the “FNM Indians” amount to “sour grapes and stale hot air” on the matter.
He said it was “amusing” to see “any number of FNMs scrambling around to get into the newspaper with any number of opinions” on the matter, that the FNM “did not have a plan for BEC and the energy sector” while in government and said they “still do not have a plan, just idle banter, posturing and bluster”.
Mr Roberts’ statements come after the government announced that it had selected the American company, PowerSecure International, as the new management company for BEC.
On Sunday, former FNM Chairman Darron Cash questioned the specifics surrounding the government’s selecting Power Secure to take over the management of the corporation. In March, however, after reportedly criticising the Christie administration’s ability to bring “stability” to BEC, Dr Minnis was said to be unable to articulate the Opposition’s plans for the corporation.
Mr Roberts said yesterday: “In the wake of the government’s announcement of PowerSecure as the BEC strategic partner and the ringing endorsement of this selection by the United States, it was amusing to see any number of FNM’s scrambling around to get into the newspaper with any number of opinions.
“But one fact remains crystal clear to this very day: the FNM has plenty of idle banter, but still no BEC or energy plan for this country. While this announcement spelled good news for the country, this was clearly bad news for the FNM. They were not happy for the Bahamian people and expressed their displeasure.”
Mr Roberts added: “The FNM chief himself, Dr Hubert Minnis, publicly conceded that after almost three years as Opposition leader and repeated calls for an early general election, the FNM had absolutely no energy plan for BEC. With the chief making this public confession and concession, the opinions of the FNM Indians amount to sour grapes and hot air.”
Last week, Works Minister Philip “Brave” Davis confirmed in a statement that the government had made the decision to engage the North Carolina-based company, giving it a five-year contract to oversee generation and transmission/distribution.
Nonetheless, the process is expected to lower electricity costs, increase energy security and reliability and increase competitiveness as a country. The news came after residents in New Providence experienced several days of rolling blackouts after engine failures at BEC’s plants.
US Charge d’Affaires Lisa Johnson commended the government for its selection of PowerSecure to manage the corporation. She said the US Embassy was “confident” that PowerSecure’s proposal offers “innovative management strategies that will provide the efficiency and cost-savings required to advance the Bahamas’ energy reform agenda.” She added that PowerSecure’s “dedication to emerging technologies” will unlock “additional opportunities for renewable energy in The Bahamas”.
On Sunday, however, Mr Cash said whatever the merits of the new BEC structure will be, it is a “disgraceful act of betrayal” to outsource the management of BEC to a foreign company. He also questioned the financial arrangement for the BEC deal. He said after “more than a year after the deal was scheduled to be concluded,” the government simply presented an “impersonal in your face ‘are you happy now’ press release” on their selection.
Mr Roberts said yesterday: “The PLP government has chartered a clear and visionary course of action to reform the energy sector through a policy that will facilitate the production of consistent and reliable power while reducing the cost of electricity to all Bahamians. As for the FNM, they did not have a plan for BEC and the energy sector while in government and now in opposition, they still do not have a plan, just idle banter, posturing and bluster.”
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.
In December, Mr Davis confirmed that the government had moved away from splitting the corporation into separate generation and transmission and distribution arms and is instead moving forward with a business model that mirrors the Nassau Airport Development Company’s arrangement for Lynden Pindling International Airport’s management.
Under that arrangement, the government will retain 100 per cent equity ownership of BEC, even after the private sector manager is in place.