|BEC opens door to private sector|
Guardian Business Reporter
Published: Aug 16, 2012
The minister of the environment and housing says the government will consider a complete or partial takeover of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) by the private sector.
“The government has received proposals from local and foreign interests, including a takeover or partial provision of the generating capacity by the private sector, and the sale of electricity to BEC for sale to consumers, to the outright purchase of BEC by private interests and the sale of electricity directly to consumers. We truly realize reducing the cost of electricity is a national challenge,” said Kenred Dorsett in the House of Assembly yesterday.
The senior official noted that the high cost of electricity, under the current system, will forever be tied to the price of oil on the international market. Opening the door to the private sector is just one in a long list of proposals by the government. In the near future, the replacement of equipment and upgrades, and consideration being given to the introduction of heavy fuel case load generation, “is integral and a priority of BEC”.
He claimed the administration is also considering proposals to increase base load generation and save BEC $100 million annually, which can be passed on to consumers.
Also among the ambitious declarations by Dorsett was a renewed focus on alternative renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy, in an effort to reduce base prices per kilowatt-hour.
“For a number of years, BEC has charged a base price of 11 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, with the cost of fuel adding on, producing a final charge to residential consumers in the range of 40 cents per kilowatt hour,” he explained. “The anticipation is that ultimately with solar generated power, electricity could be provided in the range of 10-15 cents per kilowatt hour before distribution management and transmission costs are imputed. This is a great opportunity for a public/private partnership.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie recently revealed to Guardian Business that the government is in discussions with several companies in an effort to reduce the cost of electricity.
“There are people who proposed solar. One group involves a Bahamian company in a joint venture with two other companies, who have indicated they could affect savings of $100 million annually for BEC. These are known entities in the business of provision of electricity, so these are significant proposals that we are looking at very closely,” the prime minister noted.
Currently the government is reviewing proposals to implement solar energy plants, waste-to-energy plants and ocean thermal energy plants in The Bahamas.
The minister pointed out that the government’s commitment to implementing and achieving a sustainable energy matrix for The Bahamas, together with legal reform, is critical.
“We will be working to amend the Electricity Act, to incentivize public/private partnership in the expansion or development of the country’s electricity infrastructure and sustainable energy goals. We must remove the legal impediments of exclusive rights for the generation and sale of electricity, the prohibition of self-generation and interconnection to the grid,” Dorsett shared.
According to the minister, plans are in the works for the introduction of a Renewable Energy Act and further reductions and/or exemptions on energy efficient appliances, as well as the creation of an electricity sector regulator.
Dorsett is also encouraging private investors to build solar plants with a long-term contract for the sale of power produced to BEC, which would then be responsible for supplying consumers on existing distribution lines.
“This government is committed to reducing the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. We believe that alternative renewable energy sources, applying waste-to-energy technologies and promoting energy efficiency and conservation measures are all important in achieving this objective, which will help to reduce the cost of electricity,” he added.