Algonquin: we save now so you can save later
In the recent past, electricity prices have been extraordinarily high in Bermuda. There are many reasons why. One is Bermuda’s small size.
When a system has a peak load of just over 100MW and an operating a fleet of 20 generators, it’s almost impossible to realise economies of scale.
Although the type and size of the generators being operated by Belco are necessary for an island jurisdiction such as Bermuda, they are not the most efficient. As an isolated island utility, having back-up is very important as there are no other contiguous electricity grids to support Bermuda and, therefore, costs are inherently high.
It is also very expensive to transport small quantities of fuel and parts and source service providers this far out in the Atlantic.
This is one of the ways we feel Algonquin can help. We operate more than 35 power generation facilities in the United States and Canada; those include some traditional fossil fuel plants, but the vast majority generate power from renewable sources including wind, solar and hydro. Our network of power companies works for the mutual benefit of all, and we look forward to extending that support to Belco, as part of our utility family.
Having assessed the present operations at Belco, we believe we can achieve economies of scale on bulk purchasing, and the supply of replacement parts for grid upgrades and other infrastructure, for example.
Our purchasing power, along with other operational efficiencies, could save up to $5 million over 24 months — savings that will be reflected in future electricity rates.
What we will not do is try to find savings through company-initiated job cuts. Having met with some of the great staff at the Ascendant Group, including Belco, it is clear they are passionate about and dedicated to their work.
We embrace and have great relationships with the unions in our operations across many jurisdictions in North America and look forward to working together with Belco’s Electricity Supply Trade Union to achieve the common goals of cleaner, more cost-effective electricity for Bermuda and a great working environment for employees.
Together we can achieve the ambitious goals of Bermuda’s Integrated Resource Plan, which is music to my ears. The goals outlined in the IRP are exactly what we already do: replace thermal plants that burn fossil fuels with renewables — be it wind, solar or hydro.
Our Customer Savings Plan project in Missouri, which is replacing coal with 600MW of clean wind energy and delivering $300 million in customer savings over 30 years, is a great example of that.
Belco’s North Power Station is certainly a much needed investment for the continued generation of electricity that will be much cleaner, quieter and more efficient. The new plant, along with the recently commissioned Battery Energy Storage System and significant upgrades to the grid, provides a springboard for the island to transition to a renewable energy future — one that Algonquin can help Bermuda achieve.
A focus on communities is at the heart of how we operate. We believe in local engagement, in being a daily part of our customers’ lives. That’s why we live and give in the communities in which we operate. We also invest for the long term, not just in our facilities, but in our people; it’s their passion and skills that will make us the most admired utility company by our customers, communities and investors.
As an example, and as part of our commitment to Bermuda, we have already signed a mutual aid agreement with Belco, similar to its existing agreement with the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation, and sent ten of our staff, including linesman, to help the island recover after Hurricane Humberto.
Recently we were honoured to be included on two respected industry lists: the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index and the Corporate Knights 2020 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World. For the Bloomberg Index, we are one of 325 companies recognised for fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace. For the Global 100, we ranked No 10 overall, and we are the highest-ranking electric utilities company.
We’re proud to have our local approach, combined with our commitment to the global community, recognised.
We want to bring our passion and commitment to Bermuda. We believe and are confident that Algonquin will have a positive impact on the Bermuda community, the environment and, most importantly, start to reduce Bermuda’s cost of living by bringing Belco bills down.
• Ian Robertson is the chief executive of Algonquin Power&Utilities Corporation
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