By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAHAMAS Power & Light’s (BPL) $95m deal for new electricity generation “ties in” to its renewable energy plans, a senior executive has confirmed, although these are only in “draft phase”.
Christina Alston, BPL’s chief operating officer, said of the agreement with Wartsila: “It actually ties into our plan. We are just now in the draft phase of the Integrated Resource Plan, which is not only set up for New Providence but the Family Islands. This base load generation would then dovetail into what our renewable profile would look like.
“When we’re talking about renewables here in New Providence we don’t necessarily have what we consider base load generation for renewables. Solar energy is not considered base load. The ones we would think of as base load would be geothermal as well as hydro, and those are not available here. This is not something where a renewable would displace this type of base load generation, but it does dovetail into where we are looking at supplementing with renewables at times during.”
An Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is viewed by Bahamas-based providers as “absolutely necessary” to move increased renewable energy usage “beyond talk”, but Ms Alston’s comments indicate BPL has much more work to do.
The Government’s National Energy Plan (NEP) calls for 30 percent of The Bahamas’ energy mix to come from renewable sources by 2030, but achieving this target will be extremely difficult without an IRP that sets out the “framework” for getting there.
Guilden Gilbert, vice-president of Alternative Power Solutions (APS) Bahamas, told Tribune Business previously: “What should happen is what happens in a typical regulated environment. The utility will provide an IRP showing how it can meet that deadline.
“That document is beyond the NEP. It’s a document where the utility shows how it plans to operate and assist the country in meeting the goals of the NEP. It shows the energy mix over five to ten years, and to what level they’re using renewable energy in the total mix.
“I think an IRP will focus the utility on where it’s going as it has to be part of the implementation of the NEP. Creation of an IRP will allow the utility to focus in on how it will meet the goals of the NEP. Everything is going to have to go through the utility at the end of the day. It’s the only one that distributes the power. The IRP focuses in and lays all that out.”
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is funding a $450,000 project to ensure that BPL produces an IRP that “aligns” with government energy policies. The IDB, in a document outlining the project to support the Electricity Act’s implementation, found that “policy and data gaps” were preventing The Bahamas from shedding its position as the Caribbean’s worst for renewable energy penetration.
BPL earlier this week said it had contracted Wärtsilä to fast track the $95m installation of 132 megawatts (MW) in new power generation. Wärtsilä will supply and install seven new engines in an unused section of BPL’s 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.