By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Power & Light’s (BPL) executive director yesterday pledged it was ensuring “as many Bahamians as possible” work on the $95m installation of Clifton Pier’s new generation assets.
Patrick Rollins, who gave a presentation to a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) breakfast, said: “We have had talks with the union. We hear their concerns. We are doing our best to have as many Bahamians working on the project as possible, Wärtsilä is on board with this, too. Everyone is on the same page here.”
BPL executives announced the “fast track” installation of seven new engines, representing 132 megawatts (MW) in new generation capacity, last month. The state-owned utility confirmed it had contracted Wärtsilä to supply and install the engines in an unused section of its Clifton Pier power plant in a bid to reduce energy costs, eliminate load shedding and blackouts, and boost supply security by ultimately ending reliance on rental generation.
The move, though, was immediately challenged by Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU) president, Paul Maynard, who yesterday again argued that there was ample Bahamian expertise available to install the Wartsila engines.
He told Tribune Business: “What Mr Rollins has stated is correct. We’re on the same page. Wärtsilä has reached out to me. As I stated from the beginning, they know the protocol. The prime minister has backed what the union has said and that Bahamians will be trained.”
Mr Rollins added that the new engines “are on their way”. “They will be here in early May and the real work will get started. Barring any unforeseen issues we will start to get power at the end of summer,” he said.
During his presentation, Mr Rollins said Shell had conducted the request for proposal (RFP) tender exercise which resulted in the Netherlands-based Wärtsilä beating out rival BWSC on price and implementation timeframe. Shell was previously selected as the winning bidder to construct New Providence’s new power plant, into which the Wärtsilä engines will be absorbed.
He also explained that BPL did not need approval from the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) for the Wärtsilä deal as it was not new generation, “The advice from our lawyers is that this is replacement generation,” he said.
“BPL has to go to URCA and get approval for new generation, but clearly all the generation we are getting is to replace either generation down by fire or generation taken out of service because of age.”