The multi-million-dollar facility to be unveiled at Vaucluse, St Thomas is not just a waste-to-energy plant, but a private sector-led Green Energy Park (GEP) that was touted by businessman Ralph Bizzy Williams, Barbados TODAY has learned.
While Williams said he could not offer any comments at this stage, Avinash Persaud, Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Special Envoy for Investment and Financial services, confirmed the development to Barbados TODAY.
“The Government is not spending $320 million on a waste-to-energy plant and the project will not import 80 per cent of biomass,” said Persaud, as he dismissed earlier reports as being “inaccurate” without pointing an accusing finger.
On Tuesday, July 7 Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce Dwight Sutherland told Parliament: “The FTC, as I speak to you, is preparing a rate for biomass technology for a waste-energy plant at Vaucluse, St Thomas.”
Sutherland, who was leading off debate on two companion pieces of legislation – the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) Amendment Bill 2020 and the Utilities Regulation Amendment Bill 2020, said: “The size of the plant is 25-megawatt (MW) waste-to-energy and biomass plant and the investment for this plant is some $320 million.”
There have been reports that while the proposed plant would use 20 per cent local organic waste, 80 per cent would be imported.
Since then there have been a huge outcry from residents that it did not make sense to import waste in place of fossil fuel.
However, in seeking to clarify the development, Persaud said the plan was not to import 80 per cent of biomass.
He explained that the GEP that is to be built in St Thomas is to generate some 30 MW of electricity from three renewable energy sources – waste-to-energy, biomass and solar – as the country seeks to achieve its renewable energy goals by 2030.
He said the intention is for the biomass plant to use “as much locally sourced biomass as possible”.
“This will include King grass and other sources of woody waste. Because this will require the replanting of up to 10,000 acres of land, which will take time, this will be phased in over the next five to seven years,” said Persaud.
While opting not to say what the level of investment was likely to be on each segment of the proposed project, Persaud said the GEP is to have over 50 per cent ownership by a local consortium including “local savings institutions, proven renewable energy companies and the Sanitation Service Authority (SSA)”.
He explained: “This will be required to ensure that the shares are as broadly held as possible. So expect to see some offers to the public to buy shares in small denominations as soon as it is up and running.
“This will be the largest renewable energy plant in the island and will have the capability of producing over three times the amount of renewable energy presently received into the grid. The waste-to-energy portion of the project will use combustible waste produced on the island that cannot be recycled, removing the need to build a new $40 million landfill,” he added.
The economist said the SSA will save over $10 million a year from no longer having to pay for waste to be processed, and the Government will also save an estimated $10 million a year in foreign exchange.
“The plant will eradicate the noxious odours and fires from the landfill which negatively impact the communities around Vaucluse,” he added.
The Green Energy Park will also consist of the installation of solar panels on old closed landfills bringing that land back into economic use, said Persaud.
“What has just happened is that we have agreed that the effective feed-in tariffs for these different energy sources, where the highest rate will be capped at 49.25 cents per kWh, considerably cheaper than what I think was the 66 cents that the … Cahill project proposed,” he explained.
“Moreover, there will be a new innovative pricing framework that requires a lower price to be paid to the Green Energy Park if it does not hit its renewable energy targets. This is the first phase of a big project. The solar phase of the project can start within the year, with the waste-to-energy and biomass plants within two years,” he added.
In February local entrepreneur Bizzy Williams complained that while he was willing and ready to invest in major renewable energy projects to help stimulate growth, the time it took for projects to be approved was still too long.
Following discussions between the SSA and Williams Industries Inc., a proposal for the Green Energy Park was presented to Government.
It is not immediately clear if Government has settled a claim from the controversial $700 million Cahill plasma gasification project, that was also blamed for the delay in the establishment of the planned Green Energy Park.
The Cahill project, which was proposed by the last Democratic Labour Party administration in March 2014, was eventually dumped by that same administration in 2016.