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Gov’t u-turn on Nassau solar bidding deadline

• Extends after initial date and turning down move

• Rejects process integrity fears on offer ‘modifying’

• Wants Bahamians to get majority equity in 3 years

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

THE Government has performed a u-turn over the deadline by which all bids on the New Providence renewable energy and microgrid project must be received, it can be revealed.

Documents obtained by Tribune Business disclose that, prior to the original March 28 deadline for all offers on the up to 100 Mega Watt (MW) initiative to be received, bidders were told that no extension would be granted.

One interested party, which asked if “an extension can be provided to the closing date (say, three weeks)”, was bluntly told by the Government and the Energy Committee overseeing the process: “The Government cannot provide an extension at this time.”

The same document, which is a nine-page summary detailing all bidder questions and the Government’s replies, saw another group request the provision of an “updated timeline”. The Government’s response was: “The deadline for proposal submission is March 28, 2024.”

However, following the Easter weekend and after the March 28 deadline was passed, the Government changed its stance and extended the bid deadline until next Friday, April 12, with all parties allowed to enter the Go Bonfire online procurement portal and “modify” their submissions.

Gilles Deal, the Government official acting as the contact point for the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, in a e-mailed message sent to all bidders after 5pm on Tuesday, April 2, wrote: “The Energy Committee agreed that the date of closure and proposal due date be extended to April 12, 2024, in respect of the New Providence request for proposal (NPRFP).....

“The Committee further agreed that all respondents be allowed to modify and confirm their proposals.” Several sources involved with the RFP, and/or familiar with developments, yesterday voiced concerns over the deadline extension and how it has been handled, including the ability for parties to now alter the pricing, financial and other terms of their, adding that it raised questions over the process’s fairness.

“They were told explicitly: No extensions,” one source, speaking of condition of anonymity, said of the Government’s position up to March 28. “The question was asked at least twice. You can see the technical questions, the proposed questions.”

Noting that the cut-off time for bids to be submitted was 6pm on March 28, immediately before the Easter weekend, the source queried why the opening date - the day when all offers would be opened by the Government - was not previously listed in the Go Bonfire portal.

This information was disclosed by Mr Deal in his e-mail, were he said that all proposals will be “evaluated” by May 3; a “letter of award” granted to the winning bidder(s) on May 10; and acceptance of the “letter of award” to take place by May 17, 2024.

“They didn’t do it before. It wasn’t built into the portal before. It’s very suspicious the way they did it,” one source said of the previously-absent bid opening and evaluation timelines. The absence of a bid opening date, they added, raised questions over whether the Go Bonfire system had imposed an electronic lock blocking access to all bidders’ offers until they were due to be opened simultaneously.

As a result, this source voiced fears that the procurement portal’s administrator, namely the Government, could have been able to access various bid submissions with officials potentially able to pass intelligence on rivals’ offers to favoured groups.

“Because an electronic opening date was not set, it could mean it was open to administrator access; that they could have access to those files,” they explained. “If that timing lock was not set, it could mean they have access.”

The Government’s Energy Committee, responding to Tribune Business questions, rejected these fears and said there was nothing sinister or unusual about the bid deadline extension. It added that the integrity of the process has been preserved because none of the proposals/offers submitted in time to meet the March 28 deadline have been opened or reviewed by the Government and its advisers.

“In response to your inquiry regarding the extension of the deadline for the New Providence renewable energy RFP, we would like to clarify that the decision was made in response to requests from several bidders for more time to refine their submissions,” the Energy Committee said.

“This practice is not unusual for us. For example, we previously granted extensions for the Family Island [renewable energy] RFP following similar requests. Our primary objective is to ensure we receive a comprehensive range of proposals for our renewable energy initiatives.

“To address concerns about transparency and fairness, we emphasise that the Go Bonfire platform tracks and logs all interactions with the submitted proposals. As of now, no proposal has been opened or reviewed by the committee. This procedure ensures that all submissions are treated with the utmost integrity and confidentiality until the extended deadline has passed.”

The Energy Committee’s statement, though, did not explain why it seemingly suddenly decided to extend the bid deadline by more than two weeks when, in the answers to bidder queries prior to March 28, it had rejected such action and stuck to the original timeline.

Meanwhile, the RFP itself, a copy of which has been obtained by Tribune Business, reveals that the Government wants bidders to “consider” how majority Bahamian equity ownership of their New Providence solar energy projects can be achieved within three years. The tender document also stipulates that a “minimum” 40 percent of all profits go to Bahamian shareholders.

“A key project element that is being sought is that of Bahamian ownership,” the New Providence renewable energy RFP states. “In this vein, it is anticipated that the selected respondent’s proposals will be subject to a build, operate and transfer arrangement.

“Additionally, it is important to the Government of The Bahamas that every Bahamian has an opportunity to benefit from implementing these projects. Therefore, consideration must be given to how a minimum of 51 percent Bahamian ownership would be achieved within three years with a minimum of 40 percent of the profit being disbursed to these equity holders.”

The Davis administration made clear that Bahamian ownership will give bidders a distinct advantage, with the bid documents adding: “To avoid doubt, Bahamian-owned respondents will receive preference during the RFP scoring process.” Similar conditions involving Bahamian ownership, profits and the scoring process were included in the ongoing Family Island renewable energy RFP.

The Government is targeting five New Providence locations for the installation of utility-scale renewable energy facilities, each featuring up to 20 MW of solar, to make up a maximum 100 MW of energy that would be sold to Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) - or what- ever entity emerges from the Government’s public- private partnership (PPP) reforms - via a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

The five sites are BPL’s Blue Hills power station, CV Bethel High School, the Carmichael Village housing project, Coral Harbour and the Gladstone Road Freight Terminal. Some 108 acres of land is available at the latter location, while the sites at Blue Hills, CV Bethel and Coral Harbour feature 79.2, 90.79 and 93 acres, respectively. Some 90 acres of Carmichael Village’s 206 acres will be available for solar.

“The Government of The Bahamas is focused on fostering a more resilient and sustainable energy future, and is thus inviting proposals for renewable energy projects in New Providence. The total capacity for the projects shall be at a minimum of 60 MW to a maximum of 100 MW,” the Government’s RFP says.

“The Government of The Bahamas and BPL reserve the right to determine the total capacity granted under this RFP. Each project site can have a capacity of up to 20 MW as land space is available. Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) has a 25 MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at the Blue Hills power station.

“One element of the upcoming solar projects is to serve as a renewable energy source for charging these BESS units, which are integral to maintaining the country’s spinning reserves. Furthermore, after charging the BESS, the surplus solar energy will supplement BPL’s base load generation.”

Comments

B_I_D___ 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I guess their buddies missed the bid deadline, or haven't geared up fast enough to 'win' the bid.

Dawes 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Nah they need to read the other bids and then say the same thing, but at a rate double of the others. Then they will win

AnObserver 2 months, 2 weeks ago

And their product won't work.

Porcupine 2 months, 2 weeks ago

"As a result, this source voiced fears that the procurement portal’s administrator, namely the Government, could have been able to access various bid submissions with officials potentially able to pass intelligence on rivals’ offers to favoured groups." I cannot imagine that anyone in the government would pass along restricted private information to their family, friends or business partners. That would be wrong, yes? Without a robust freedom of information act, there will NEVER be any honesty in government. And, perhaps why there are so very few honest politicians here in The Bahamas.

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