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Mixed reaction to Waste-to-Energy facility proposal

Sustainability advocates and politicians have given a mixed reaction to news that Government has issued a Request for Proposals for a Waste-to-Energy facility.

Opposition One Bermuda Alliance yesterday questioned Government’s rationale for its RFP given that $20 million of taxpayer’s money has been spent on upgrading the facility.

The RFP notice was published in the Official Gazette on Friday.

It calls for proposals for a “Waste-to-Energy facility to supplement or replace the existing Waste-to-Energy facility at Tynes Bay”.

Proposals were being sought from interested parties who could fully implement and finance their proposals, the notice said.

“We are at a loss to understand the Government’s thinking behind its public request for proposals on the future operations of the Tynes Bay Incinerator, particularly after spending $20 million of taxpayer money to upgrade the plant,” said acting Shadow Public Works Minister Pat Gordon-Pamplin.

“For the sake of transparency, we call on the Works Minister to explain why it issued the RFP and how the Government regards the future of the plant. The public have a right to know what the Government’s objective is with this critically important facility.”

Government has said that it had received a number of unsolicited proposals and wanted to consider all its options.

And, asked whether it was seeking to privatise the facility, or enter into a public-private partnership, a spokesperson indicated that Government was seeking self-financing ventures and that no model was being ruled out.

The United Bermuda Party’s Charles Swan agreed that sending out an RFP so soon after a $20 million refurbishment programme “sort of doesn’t make sense”.

But he was upbeat about the idea of privatisation saying the RFP makes “eminent sense”.

“Governments all over the world have found that they need not be involved in this aspect of handling garbage,” he said.

“There are examples in the UK and elsewhere of towns being powered with electricity generated by the burning of waste.”

Technological innovation is proceeding apace in the waste-energy field and Bermuda’s small size makes it an ideal place to benefit from and implement new technologies, he added.

“A detailed cost/benefit analysis of the current Tynes Bay operation, with careful analysis of any/all proposals received would assist government in determining the best solution for Bermuda.”

Sustainability awareness charity, Greenrock, also reacted positively to the news.

“While the facility currently meets our needs as a country (after the recent upgrade) the plant is ageing, and newer technology could significantly increase the amount of electricity produced by our municipal waste,” said Greenrock president Judith Landsberg.

“We also welcome the recognition that our government does not have to own and run all public services, with proper oversight and performance contracts companies which are specialists in their field are highly motivated to be efficient, and to maintain current knowledge.”

But Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Task Force urged caution yesterday.

“We have not seen credible evidence that Governments (the Bermuda Government included) save money on PPP or privatisation of public services,” said BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward.

“The key issue is accountability and privatisation would seem to add a layer that further shields providers of the service from being held accountable to users of the service.

“We are not convinced that the public will be better, more economically or more efficiently served just because a service has been privatised.”

Mr Hayward said that if Government opts for “divided ownership” at Tynes Bay, it should keep the capital assets and have a private company provide the services. “Further, the cost to the consumer of all refuse services (over 15 years) should be projected by an independent specialist.”

He also said that the expected length of the contract period was important as power could change hands over a lengthy period.

“Each successive government could be reluctant to inherit PPPs, particularly as these will undoubtedly reduce their fiscal management options.

“Also, even large companies do not necessarily survive for 30 years, which signals possible trades in PPP contracts and attendant issues.”

And Mr Hayward wondered whether a private company would be required to hire Bermudians.

“Would they be given “concessions” such as an easing of requirements that they retain the skills, quality of workmanship and environmental standards set by law and expected by the public?” he continued.

“What Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) will be required as part to the RFP and to what international standard will it be held?

“Will a Special Development Order (SDO) have full public disclosure, adequate time for public discussion, and cooperative rather than adversarial consultation with stakeholders?”

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Published April 24, 2012 at 9:53 am (Updated April 24, 2012 at 9:52 am)

Mixed reaction to Waste-to-Energy facility proposal

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