Uncertainty over halt in plant operations

FOUR months after contractors and landowners claimed it had ceased operations, there has been no word from Nabou Green Energy Ltd (NGEL) on what led to the shutdown — or what happens next.

When quizzed last week about the $100 million plant’s closure, Infrastructure Minister Jone Usamate said he was not aware of the shutdown.

“I don’t have information on that, I will have to find out,” he said.

Marika Senibua, a landowner and contractor who supplied woodchips to power the renewable energy plant, said NGEL — Fiji’s first independent power provider — had not been operational since December last year.

He claimed he was owed payments and the unannounced closure of the power plant affected his business.

“When I found out that the plant had not been operating since December last year because of low production and output, I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be paid,” Mr Senibua said.

“We can’t do much right now. “I really feel for the employees and also for us landowners.

“We had complete faith in this business ever since we leased our land to them four years ago.”

Mr Senibua said he was a member of Tokatoka Tubeibila of Navutu, Nadroga, the landowning unit which owns the 6.4 hectares which the NGEL power plant was constructed on.

He claimed there were issues with lease arrangements from the day the landowners agreed to give the company a 99-year lease after consultations with the iTaukei Land Trust Board in 2013.

Three Korean companies — Gimcao Company Ltd, GS Power Co Ltd and Mirae Asset Daewoo Ltd — have shares in NGEL.

Local company Tropik Wood Industries Ltd had a 25 per cent stake in NGEL, but surrendered it last year.

According to the NGEL website, Tropik Wood had also provided 5000 hectares of land for growing of feedstock for the biomass plant.

“During our initial talks with TLTB we had asked them if they could think of us when everything about the lease was finalised but this never happened.

“We had written to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Natural Resources if we could at least have 3 per cent shares in the plant but we never heard back from them.

“Now when the plant has shut down, we are not sure what’s going to happen next.”

NGEL company team leader Avijit Chowdhury told this newspaper the 12MW Biomass Power Plant in Nabou was not shut down but closed temporarily.

“The operations are as normal, but at the moment the power plant is not working because shareholders are planning to have a proper start which at the moment is taking time,” he said.

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