By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
A trade union leader yesterday reiterated that he will “accept nothing less” than Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) training his members to operate New Providence’s new generation plant.
Paul Maynard, the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union’s (BEWU) president, doubled down on his argument that BPL must prepare Bahamians to run the 132 megawatts (MW) of extra generation capacity that is being acquired from Wartsila, the Finnish-headquartered manufacturer, in a $95m deal.
“They know from last July that they were getting at least 60 MW,” Mr Maynard argued. “The protocol is for them to immediately identify staff they are going to put into those stations. To this day they have not done that.
“Everyone is clowning and no one knows the process. They’re [BPL] bringing in consultants from all over the place and they don’t know the process. There are several persons who they could have brought in to explain how the process goes.”
The union chief continued: “If they made a deal where training doesn’t come with it, that’s their weakness. Every other time we bought engines it included training for the people who run the [BPL] stations. That’s the way it should be and we’re accepting nothing less.
“They need to get with it and don’t tell me we don’t know how to handle four-stroke engines. Don’t tell me that nonsense. The engines are in poor condition today, and it has nothing to do with our staff. The issue is poor planning. Poor planning cost it. They weren’t able to do proper maintenance on time. Don’t blame us because the station is in poor condition.”
BPL confirmed earlier this month that it had contracted Wärtsilä to supply and install seven new 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.
BPL executives also revealed that they had moved to “fast track” the $95m installation of the tri-fuel plant, which will be capable of using heavy fuel oil, diesel, and liquefied natural gas when it becomes locally available.
Whitney Heastie, BPL’s chief executive, last week told Tribune Business that the state-owned utility will likely seek an ownership interest in the new 220 MW power plant to be built by Shell North America at Clifton Pier in return for its $95m investment.
The Wartsila engines will ultimately be rolled into, and incorporated in, the new Shell plant, with the latter said to have been intimately involved in the technology selection and planning for the initial 132 MW.
“What we’re doing is outsourcing the operation and maintenance of that plant to Wartsila, or a Wartsila-qualified service provider will be operating that facility,” Mr Heastie told Tribune Business of the 132 MW. “They’re going to be responsible for providing the training for persons to operate that facility.
“We have stipulated that the majority of personnel are Bahamian. We would prefer them to hire individuals with diesel plant generation experience and train them on the four-speed engines. There’s no one in New Providence today with that experience on four-speed engines.”
Mr Heastie said the new power plant operator will be held accountable by having to meet key performance indicators, such as reliability, availability and cost, which will be based on global energy industry standards.
He added that, once the 132 MW becomes operational in October-November 2019, BPL will be able to reduce its reliance on the Blue Hills power station that burns the more expensive diesel fuel.
The utility is currently generating 80 percent of New Providence’s energy needs from Blue Hills, which is why customer fuel charges have soared, a situation not helped by last September’s Clifton Pier fires that took out 63 MW of BPL’s most efficient engines.