NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas Power and Light’s (BPL) contract with Shell North America to construct a new generation and liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Clifton Pier represents a long-term “slave arrangement” for the Bahamian people, according to businessman Ethric Bowe.
Instead, Bowe said The Bahamas should be pushing toward total solarization.
“Right now, everybody and their dog is going into solar,” Bowe told Eyewitness News Online.
“[Look at] Florida Power and Light (FPL) where the electricity is one quarter to one fifth [of the cost of] what it is here in The Bahamas.
“They are going into solar big time, so the incentive for us to go into solar is five times as great.
“But we are going into something that we can’t afford.
“What we are doing is locking our people into a slave arrangement for maybe 40, 50 years.
“And when you invest that much money into a situation, you have to use it.”
He added, “On the face of it that is a bad arrangement.”
More than 252,000 homes in the state of Florida are supplied by solar, with 14 solar plants and four more under construction. FLP also plans to advance plans in March to sell solar subscriptions where consumers can reduce their bills by sharing the cost of additional solar energy.
It was pointed out to Bowe that neighbouring countries such as Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica use LNG and have seen reductions in the cost of electricity.
However, Bowe said The Bahamas is entering a contract for technology it cannot afford to maintain.
“You do not buy things your people can’t maintain. That is rule number one; appropriate technology,” he said.
“You can’t maintain it and you are going to buy it?
“Everything that goes wrong with that, you are stuck for parts and everything, and you have to buy it from them.
“Whatever they charge you for it, you then have to pay, so you don’t even know what your future costs are going to be.
He pointed to the Grand Bahama Power Company’s push to solar.
GBPC has been incrementally moving towards total reliance on renewable energy.
Last November, GBPC CEO David McGregor said solarization of Grand Bahama was the way forward. He said after the completion of the company’s 3.5-megawatt solar plant, it will continue to expand its solar infrastructure until the island can be powered by solar.
The plant is expected to begin operations by summer 2019, according to officials.
The company plans to invest more than $18 million in renewable energy and smart technology, including smart metering, over the next two years to improve the reliability of power and lower the cost of electricity.
Bowe said GBPC has set its mission to reduce power rates on that island to the lowest in the region.
He said as a small Caribbean nation, The Bahamas should to be cautious about buying into grand plans that it cannot maintain.
According to BPL officials, the absence of sufficient ground acreage for solar plants on New Providence, makes rooftop solar panel installation on government complexes and schools more feasible.
There are plans in place to install solar panels at the Anatol Rogers School, according to BPL CEO Whitney Heastie.
The power company has also been in negotiations with the Ministry of the Environment and the Office of the Prime Minister to solarize other government schools as a part of its renewable energy plan.
As the company awaits the construction of the new LNG power plant, BPL has also encouraged residential and commercial customers to solarize their homes and sell the excess power back to BPL through its small-scale renewable generation plan.
As of last year, fewer than 200 Bahamians were benefiting from the program, however.