By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WHEN Finnish group Wärtsilä completes installation of a new electricity plant at Clifton Pier, Bahamas Power and Light Company Ltd would have ended the expensive practice of rental generators and “drastically” decreased the fuel surcharge on consumer’s monthly bills.
As BPL CEO Whitney Heastie made these revelations yesterday, he added Bahamians could also look forward to power generation reliability in New Providence where, for years, customers have been plagued by blackouts and load shedding, especially in the hot summer months.
He spoke during a press conference yesterday at BPL’s headquarters where he announced the company was contracted to install the $95m, 132-megawatt plant, powered by seven high efficiency engines. They plan to finish installation by the end of this summer.
However, Mr Heastie was not able to clearly paint an exact picture of what bill reduction may look like, only explaining the additional mega wattage is about 50 percent of the total peak load experienced in the capital.
He added fuel consumption today is about 80 percent diesel and 20 percent heavy fuel, but the new plant will allow BPL to quickly shift from this model to more reliance on the lesser-used fuel.
Mr Heastie was vague when he was asked how BPL planned to foot the cost of the new plant. As fires which plagued the entity last September happened early on in BPL’s new fiscal year, he said much of the money came from the power provider’s ability to push aside many of its planned capital works projects.
Asked what percentage of the cost was attributed to this decision, Mr Heastie said: “We won’t get into those details.”
He said: “Bahamas Power and Light is pleased to announce that we have a signed a contract with Finnish technology group Wärtsilä to instal a 132-megawatt engine plant at the Clifton site.
“The total cost of the plant is approximately $95m and will be located in the existing station A building at Clifton Pier which has recently been stripped of the four 1980s vintage two stroke engines and auxiliary equipment that have been out of service since 2016. Currently civil engineering works and upgrades are being completed so that station A can accommodate the new seven high efficiency Wärtsilä engines.
“The new plant will be tri-fuel capable of burning heavy fuel oil, diesel oil or liquefied natural gas when it becomes locally available. This operational flexibility of the new plant is an important step to ensuring energy and price security for the Bahamas.
“When this project is completed, customers will see a substantial improvement in the power generation reliability in New Providence and lower fuel surcharge on their monthly billing. The lower fuel charge will result from both the use of more efficient generation along with the ability to burn lower price fuel.
“Additionally, BPL will now own sufficient generating assets to finally close the chapter on rental generation in New Providence which began in 2011. The installation will be completed by the end of summer 2019.”
The new plant will not affect ongoing Shell North America negotiations for a deal to create a new multi-fuel power plant, but instead fortifies it, Mr Heastie said.
“Shell was integrally involved with the selection process. They actually went out and did the tendering for us and they were the ones who recommended Wärtsilä as the entity that should come forth and resolve this power situation for us,” he said.
“So the 132 megawatts are a complement of the 220 megawatts that’s committed by Shell so there is still another 90 megawatts that has to be built and so the 90 megawatts will be added at Clifton Pier to complete the 220 megawatts that Shell has committed to build as a part of the memorandum of understanding,” Mr Heastie also said.
Wärtsilä was hired on a fast track and as its Business Development Manager Edmund Phillips explained the company plans to finish this project in about nine months.
Despite this, he said the end of summer timeline was hard and fast.
He said: “The engines will be shipped from Italy the end of March. They’ll take about two months to arrive on the island. Once on the island, about four months to instal so providing there is no unforeseen event then yes, we will stick to that.
“So typically a project like this will take about 13 to 15 months depending on the level of civil works that’s involved. In this case we will be building this plant in about nine months because we certainly understand the need for improvement on the island.
“So one thing to bear in mind, even though we are going as fast as we can, safety is of paramount importance for us and we will be as safe as we can during the installation,” he also said.
Mr Phillips further stressed that their intent is to use local skills where possible. He said many local engineering companies were interviewed and selected for civil works.
However, Mr Heastie insisted yesterday there was no one at BPL today who could understand a Wärtsilä engine or is skilled in electro-mechanical engineering.