New partnership hailed as a ‘step in the right direction’
Renewable energy companies were told to join forces to create an industry association during a game-changing memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing between the newly launched Global Energy Solutions Limited and the international conglomerate, Sybac Solar.
“Coming together and speaking with one voice enables you to push for legislation and regulations in an enabling environment that helps the whole industry,” advised John Bush, political and energy officer at the US Embassy in Nassau. The deal marked the first time that a major US company has entered a joint venture partnership on renewable energy in The Bahamas.
Dignitaries on hand to witness the event Thursday were Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar and Opposition Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fred Mitchell.
Global Energy Solutions Limited and Sybac Solar hopes to enter into a public private partnership with the government whereby a solar field is created to provide power to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) at a wholesale rate, with savings passed on to the electric company’s consumers.
According to Darius Johnson Principal of Global Energy Solutions Limited, weaning this jurisdiction’s dependence on fossil fuels, will yield enormous environmental benefits and boost the nation’s economic competitiveness.
“We have the ability as a country to create to scale, a clean energy sector through the right partnerships that can transform our economy,” he said. “It can create thousands of high quality, good paying jobs for scores of young Bahamians.”
“In our virtually two-legged economy that is struggling to keep pace with a growing population and little to no substantive jobs growth, if we develop this properly, we can put thousands of Bahamians to work in this new energy ecosystem. This is the road towards employment and job creation. We can empower a new generation of Bahamians entrepreneurs and allied professionals,” said Mr Johnson.
With electricity costing three times more in The Bahamas than it does in Florida, renewable energy makes sense at all levels (residential, commercial, utility scale and on an ecological scale), according to Mr Bush who called the partnership “a step in the right direction.”
To facilitate energy reform he suggested consolidating energy issues under a singly ministry.
“Having renewables over at [the Ministry of] Environment and all other energy issues over at [the Ministry of] Works it kind of makes renewable energy something of an orphan at times,” he said.
The embassy official also suggested eliminating bottlenecks in the approval process for solar projects which would encourage persons to propel such initiatives forward “with more enthusiasm.”
Still, history has shown that energy reform is more likely to result from a cohesive private sector push.
“Another model that works is for companies and environmental groups to form a green energy alliance to push for pro-green energy policies but regardless of how you structure it the fact is that you’re stronger together,” he told those in attendance.
“Such an organization will then be in a position to work with BPL [Bahamas Power and Light], URCA [the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority], the Ministry of Works and other stakeholders on crafting some much-needed changes to the 2013 National Energy Plan.”
Renewable energy is a timely topic particularly as it relates to the use of solarization as an alternative source of energy.
Works Minister Desmond Bannister anticipates that shortly the government will build a new state of the art generating plant on New Providence with “best in class efficiencies for single cycle power generation.”
“This new facility will not only improve our generation capacity and modernize our plant, but will also provide newer technologies together with higher levels of energy conservation and improved efficiencies when compared to existing assets,” he said.
As the energy transformation accelerates, broader and deeper decarbonization efforts are required, said Felix Stubbs, chairman of The Investment Group (TIG) – a $1 million investment fund launched last August with its seed money coming from Bahamas Striping Group of Companies. Global Energy Solutions Limited was one of three companies to receive first-round funding from TIG.
“More emphasis must be placed on the use of solar energy for heating and cooling in buildings and industry,” said Mr Stubbs. “Concerted global efforts must also focus on drawing in large-scale investors into the solar sector and going beyond small-scale projects, hence this partnership with Sybac Solar.”
Outside of the US, Sybac operates offices in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mexico City, Mexico. Sybac says it’s the biggest project developer for solar energy in Honduras.
Said Atario J Mitchell, president of the Bahamas Striping Group of Companies Limited: “It is incumbent upon this generation to advance the weaning process and move the Bahamas off fossil fuels and transition to the abundant and endless sunlight resource being freely given to us.”