RA accuses Belco of making misleading statements over emissions
The Regulatory Authority accused Belco yesterday of deliberately misleading the public about emissions from its North Power Station.
The RA, in a public statement, said that senior representatives at Belco had “made concerted efforts to misinform the public” and that a representative had been “selective” about what information was shared.
“The representative openly stated that their plant was supposed to burn natural gas, not what it is burning today,” the RA said. “They further assert that this is the genesis of the problems they are facing with respect to the plant and soot emissions.”
The RA said that in 2017, Belco had said that it had a “dire need” to build the NPS, which would be a dual-fuel plant capable of using oil or liquefied natural gas.
“Last week I along with our managing director of transmission, distribution and retail, Shelly Leman, and our managing director of bulk generation, Nadir Wade, went on various radio shows to explain to the public the reasons behind a recent emission fallout at the NPS and what we are doing to improve operations at the plant.
“During the show, we discussed how Belco has been unable to burn natural gas in the new plant. The fact is that the Regulatory Authority’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan did not prefer natural gas as a fuel option. Contrary to the legislative process, the RA published its own version of an IRP that did not select a scenario that included natural gas.
“We never had any intention to mislead the public and do not believe we did.
“Belco is committed to and working towards achieving net zero by 2050 and is exploring alternative and renewable energy generation through the use of wind, solar and the possible transition from heavy fuel oil to natural gas.
“We are committed to transparency and continuing to engage in communication between the company and all of our stakeholders. Belco looks forward to continuing dialogue and engagement with the community as we continue to build a clean, safe and renewable energy future for Bermuda.”
“Belco suggested that oil would be deployed in the first instance and if at some point in the future the country decided to go towards LNG, the plant could then be readily updated to switch to the LNG.
“The RA requested further information from Belco, and based on all the information received from Belco the RA approved Belco’s proposal in its entirety for $118 million to build the NPS and their battery system. No modifications were made to their proposal, and therefore the RA expected that Belco would deliver what it promised.
“Yet, after receiving permission from the RA, Belco built the North Power Station to optimise LNG first. It made the decision based on its assumption that the public and the RA would readily accept liquefied natural gas for energy generation at that time.
“However, when the RA conducted several public consultations on the Integrated Resource Plan proposal, which Belco created, and several alternative generation proposals from the public, there was little support for LNG.”
The statement added that the RA took no position regarding the safety of LNG in Bermuda, and that “any representations that the RA provided erroneous information to the public regarding the safety aspects of natural gas are incorrect”.
“The RA advises that if the issue is that the Belco plant was configured for natural gas and now has been retrofitted for liquid fuels, which is still problematic, Belco should address technical issues and mechanical issues with the vendor and hold them accountable to make the necessary repairs as a matter of urgency,” the statement continued.
“Finally, the RA cautions Belco about making any further misleading statements to the public regarding the NPS. If it continues to do so, the RA will consider all options available to it.”
Wayne Caines, a government MP who became Belco president in December 2020, said that Belco was committed to reducing emissions and adopting alternative energy.
He added that natural gas was on the table as a substitute but ruled out under the Regulatory Authority’s Integrated Resource Plan.
“When planning for the North Power Station, the intention was to use natural gas as a fuel, but the Integrated Resource Plan process eliminated natural gas as a fuel source,” he said.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the matter was one for the RA.
However, he added: “It should be noted that any approval must be consistent with the integrated resource plan published in 2019.
“The IRP does not mention LNG. Furthermore, LNG is not the preferred choice of power generation for Bermuda’s future.”