|$80M plant to ‘stabilize’ GB energy|
Guardian Business Editor
Published: Sep 19, 2012
The new $80 million West Sunrise Plant will reduce the cost of electricity and eliminate blackouts, according to the president of the Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC).
Sarah MacDonald said the modern facility is an important step in modernizing the island's infrastructure. Emera, the Canadian parent company, gained a majority interest in GBPC in 2010.
While the 52 mega-watt power plant has experienced a few "glitches" along the way, MacDonald expects the West Sunrise Plant to shave more dollars off electricity bills. The president said the price of electricity has already been brought down by around a cent and a half. In 2013, she speculated a further reduction in cost, which all told translates into an approximate 8 percent drop.
"Our rates have stabilized. They have been holding steady despite the cost of oil going up, because we are more efficient," she explained. "We are hoping for 35 to 36 cents per kilowatt in the near future."
The comments follow the West Sunrise Plant's grand opening this week.
The event, attended by government and private sector leaders, was marked by the prevailing message that Grand Bahama desperately needs cheaper and more reliable energy to fuel the island's revitalization. At present, while just a few dozen miles from the U.S. coast, residents and businesses pay more than three times the rate in Florida.
"They are ruining the industry of Grand Bahama and the private lives of many Bahamians because of these high fees, which are exorbitant compared to Florida. I'm paying more than three times more. I decided to just shut them off altogether," said Jeff Butler, head of the Butler Group of Companies.
This entrepreneur has shifted at least one of his businesses to a generator, insisting it is preferable than being on the grid.
In his keynote address, Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville underlined the high cost of energy as a key hindrance to potential investors. He also stressed the importance of alternative forms of energy, which can bring "real change" to the cost of electricity and "open doors" for the industrial sector.
He encouraged GBPC to partner with the government to improve the island's economy.
MacDonald told Guardian Business that the company is not opposed to renewable energy, but it would take a very specific project and technology to generate interest.
She said with the new plant GBPC has more than enough generation, adding that the company is not in a position to 'take a flyer" on something not tested, proven and guaranteed to reduce the cost of electricity for consumers.
Waste-to-energy solitons, she explained, hold the most promise at this stage.
But beyond renewable energy there is a keen focus going forward on natural gas. MacDonald emphasized that the new plant is capable of being outfitted to take on this cheaper type of fuel.
Executives are now working on an export licence from the U.S, she revealed.
"The real key is natural gas. That will be the game changer and have the biggest impact for the island," she said.