BPL too often ‘holding the bag’ for developers

By Fay Simmons

Tribune Business Reporter


Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) is seeking a more “equitable” contribution from developers that need it to provide additional generation capacity for their projects, its chief executive revealed yesterday.

Shevonn Cambridge told the Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) accountants’ week seminars that BPL was often left “holding the bag” when developers halt projects and exit the jurisdiction after demanding that the electricity supply network be upgraded.

He explained that when BPL makes infrastructure investments, it plans on providing power generation for decades to recover its costs. And, if developers decide to “pack up shop” after a few years, this will not happen.

“With major investments and even some residential projects, BPL requests capital contributions. This is a shared cost between the utility and the developer or property owner, and the potential exists to guarantee a more equitable contribution from these parties so that BPL does not assume such a high cost for the infrastructural outlay,” Mr Cambridge said.

“When people come in, they say they’re going to do projects and put certain requirements on BPL to do it. We make the investment. A year or two later you decide you’re going to pack up shop. We’re left with the costs. Most of our projections when we do system upgrades and things like that is we plan to recover that cost over a 20-30 year period. If that falls short, we’re left holding the bag.”

Mr Cambridge added that while BPL supports development throughout The Bahamas, investors should consider their energy needs at the outset to avoid issues later.

He said: “Some major projects recently completed or currently underway cost BPL millions of dollars in material. While we will always support economic development on our islands we need developers to do more planning of their energy needs. And, at the same time, there should be more equitable distribution of the costs and risks associated with the electrical components of these projects.

“We encourage those of you who work with developers on these major capital projects, as well as your clients, to ensure that your energy needs are considered at the forefront of your planning exercises, especially if the project is going to require considerable power input.

“We find a lot of people come at the tail end after the buildings are built, after the factory is built or whatever, and when they hear the cost to get power to them it becomes an issue.”

Mr Cambridge said that BPL has an opportunity to capitalise on the increasing use of electric vehicles (EVs). “Where I see the most potential is from the surge of EVs, and I don’t think it’s a matter of whether we’re going to be pushed or pulled, it’s just a matter of time,” he added.

“So we’re going to have more people using EVs, and so that’s going to put some pressures on us,Mt but it also creates some revenue. So BPL will be able to benefit from the increased demand.”

Mr Cambridge added that the Nassau Cruise Port also provides an avenue for increased revenue as many ships have to turn off their engines while in port. At full capacity, the ships docked in the cruise port can consume 72 Mega Watts (MW), equivalent to almost one-quarter or 25 percent of New Providence’s current consumption.

He said: “If you look at the new cruise port, that’s another area where we will also see some potential for increased revenue as we go into increasing our cruising and mega yacht potential.

“A lot of these vessels are now required through maritime laws to turn off their engines when they go into ports. So they’re not going to be requiring shore power. Our berth out at Potters Cay has capacity. I think the six - three mega ships and three regular ships - at one time, these ships take about 10 to 12 MW of power each.

“So when the cruise port is full, if we were to get all of them on shore power that’s about 72 MW. That’s almost a quarter or thereabout of what we consuming on the island as a whole.”


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