Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Lack of development capital hinders region, says New Fortress boss

Published:Monday | October 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Edens

Chairman of New Fortress Energy Wesley Edens said that despite various challenges, Jamaica and the wider Caribbean are ripe for investment.

"The need for capital investment (in Jamaica) is gigantic, (but) it's a good environment to invest in," Edens said while responding to questions from Christopher Zacca, president of Sagicor Jamaica. Both men were participating in a panel discussion at the inaugural natural gas conference on Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Specifically, they were exploring investment opportunities that are anticipated with the introduction of the gas to Jamaica.

New Fortress is the United States-based company that was responsible for the upgrade of the Jamaica Public Service's Bogue plant in Montego Bay, St James. That plant now uses liquefied natural gas (LNG). New Fortress will also supply LNG to the JPS's new 190-megawatt plant now under construction in Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine. The introduction of the gas to Jamaica is expected to significantly reduce electricity costs with other spin-offs for the economy and the environment.

 

MAJOR OBSTACLE

 

Meanwhile, with potential investors attending the conference, Edens had high praises for both the current and previous governments. He said that despite the change in government in February 2016, there were no delays on the Bogue project as the transition was seamless. But, he was quick to point out that despite being facilitated by both the government and the bureaucrats, Jamaica, and the wider Caribbean, face a major obstacle - the lack of development capital. He explained that the project was only completed because New Fortress used its own money. "Even with the best of intentions, this can be problematic if you don't have your own capital," Edens stressed.

Caribbean a place for 'broken promises'

New Fortress Energy boss Wesley Edens has described the Caribbean region as a "place of broken promises", with many potential investors promising to fund projects but failing to follow through on commitments.

Edens said the Caribbean is faced with a debt problem rather than an equity problem.

He suggested that New Fortress, which has signed a 20-year deal to supply natural gas to Jamaica, could use the country as a hub to sell the fuel to the wider Caribbean, including to Puerto Rico and Cuba.

With neighbouring Trinidad & Tobago converting LNG to compressed natural gas for use in motor vehicles, Edens said that while the obvious focus and impact is on businesses, "to get it (natural gas) into people's transportation would have the bigger impact."

When asked by Zacca where he saw New Fortress in the next five years, Edens said, "The model we have in Jamaica is the same model we have for the rest of the Caribbean."