Enwave files counterchallenge against Bernhard on LSU energy deal

A second complaint has been filed with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors in connection with a growing controversy over competition for a lucrative contract to provide energy services to buildings on the main LSU campus.

Earlier this week, Enwave Energy, one of two bidders for the 30-year deal, filed a complaint against its competitor, Louisiana Energy Partners, challenging the complaint LEP filed against Enwave late last month.

In the initial complaint, LEP argued that Enwave—which outscored LEP in an evaluation of the two proposals by LSU staff and consultants because it promises to save LSU $60 million more over 30 years—argued that Enwave should be disqualified because it does not have a commercial contractor’s license in Louisiana.

In its counter-complaint, Enwave argues the LEP claim is “meritless,” saying a contractor’s license is not required for the transaction LSU initially pitched to the two firms last year.  

As originally envisioned by LSU staff and consultants, the LSU Board of Supervisors would have authorized the LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation to launch a public procurement process and select a private partner to engage in a long-term ground lease to upgrade and modernize the aging system that heats and cools the campus.

Under that scenario, the concessionaire would not have had to have a contractor’s license, Enwave argues, but would have hired licensed contractors to actually do the work on the system.

The LSU Board, however, ultimately rejected giving the REFF authority over the bid process, opting instead to directly solicit proposals from Enwave, which provides thermal energy services to the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, and LEP, which is a joint venture of businessman Jim Bernhard’s firm Bernhard Energy, and Johnson Controls.

The wording in that solicitation document is more ambiguous and open to interpretation on the issue of licensing. The licensing board staff is currently investigating the initial complaint, a board attorney told Daily Report earlier this week.

He did not return a call today seeking comment on the subsequent complaint.

The Enwave complaint goes on to argue that if the licensing board rules that a commercial contractor’s license is required to bid on the deal, then LEP should also be disqualified because it does not have a contractor’s license either, though both Bernhard Energy and Johnson Controls do.

In support of that argument, Enwave cites case law, Lemoine/Brasfield & Gorie Joint Venture LLC, vs. Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office, establishing that a limited liability company is distinct from its member companies and is required to obtain its own license.