By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard insisted yesterday no employee will be pushed out as he raised concerns regarding the job security of Bahamas Power and Light employees upon the completion of the Shell North America deal.
As finalisation of the deal will mean that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, of which BPL is a subsidiary, will no longer be in the business of generating power, Mr Maynard said there are concerns about the future of workers in a situation where Shell will be performing this role.
Negotiations over the deal are ongoing and officials don’t expect to reach completion until sometime in the first quarter of 2019. But Mr Maynard maintained that the devil is in the details.
Mr Maynard said: “They are now entering into the power purchase agreement and I have spoken to the chairman and the minister and I’ve raised my concerns that it’s obvious that Shell will be taking over the whole generation.
“BEC is getting out of the generation business, which means that Shell will now be in the power generation business.”
He continued: “The union’s concern is primarily our staff being trained and the future of our staff at the power station. Obviously, they are going to have to keep the staff.
“The union is not going to tolerate them bringing foreigners in here when our staff could be trained and they do it.
“No you ain’t pushing the Bahamians out and they be without jobs and the foreigners have jobs. That ain’t happening.”
He admitted that executives have consulted the union, but their concerns have remained.
Last month, the country was said to be one step closer to lower energy bills and more stable electricity generation with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between BPL and Shell North America for an integrated LNG gas-to-power project.
However, at the time of the signing it was unclear whether consumers will feel the impact of the corporation’s transition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) during the Minnis administration’s term as the project, which features a 220-250 megawatt (MW) power plant is not slated to be completed until the “early 2020’s”.
Shell officials were also unable to offer any estimates on how much it planned to invest on the project, stating it was too early to tell.
“In terms of starting construction,” Donovan Moxey, BPL chairman said last month. “It won’t start until after the PPA (power purchase agreement) has been negotiated, all of the environmental studies, impact assessments, environmental plans have been done. Everything is done in accordance with the planning and subdivisions act and we follow all those processes.
“And so the hope for us is that we get construction started soon enough so that we can have the plant online by the early 2020’s. Our target goal is sometime before or around 2022 but you never know what may delay the project moving forward.”
Shell, the project developer and independent power producer, will absorb the costs of developing marine infrastructure, and constructing the gas pipeline, LNG terminal and new power plant, according Mr Moxey, who said negotiations will now turn to locking down commercial agreements over the supply rate.
Mr Moxey last month said negotiations over the PPA will likely take around three to four months.
He could not be reached for comment up to press time yesterday.