Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 15th 2015 Contents BG20 REGIONAL
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JANUARY 2015 • WEEK THREE
For decades, the fertile slopes of La
Soufriere volcano, which occupies the
northern third of this 344-kilometre-
square island, has produced illegally grown
marijuana that fuels the local underground
economy, and the trade in that illicit drug across the
But now the 1,234-metre-high mountain, which
last erupted in 1979, is now being explored for some-
thing very different; its geothermal energy potential.
The Ralph Gonsalves government believes that
geothermal energy will be a "game changer" for the
In this country, where tourism is the mainstay, the
cost of electricity ranges from 40 to 50 cents per kilo-
watt-hour; several times what consumers pay in the
Householders and manufacturers are hoping that
the geothermal energy exploration, which has been
underway for more than a year, will in fact produce
the 10 to 15 megawatts of electricity that the country
desperately needs to relieve its dependence on high-
cost fossil fuels and give new life to the manufacturing
and agro-processing sectors.
The geothermal energy exploration is a partnership
between the Unity Labour Party government, the Ice-
landic Firm Reykjavik Geothermal Ltd., and Emera
Inc., an international energy company with roots in
Nova Scotia, Canada that also owns power stations
in the Caribbean.
One year after the geothermal project was launched,
Prime Minister Gonsalves, who will run for a fourth
consecutive five-year term in elections this year, told
Parliament in December that the geothermal power
plant is on track for a 2017-2018 completion.
By June 2015, a technical report will be completed
and well and plant site selection will be done, Gon-
salves, who also holds the energy portfolio, told law-
"We are still on target. I have been advised by the
Energy Unit. ... Barring some extraordinary challenge
which may arise, we should be having a production
of 10 megawatts by the end of 2017," Gonsalves told
The "very low interest monies" that the prime
minister says his government will receive shortly may
have been a reference to his government s application
for a 15-million-dollar loan through the Abu Dhabi
Fund for Development and the International Renewable
Energy Agency (IRENA).
The successful applicants will be announced at the
Fifth Session of the IRENA Assembly, slated for Jan.
17-18 in Abu Dhabi, which Gonsalves will attend.
Putting the loan application of St Vincent and the
Grenadines into context, Gonsalves told IPS, "There
are about 80 applications from which they are choosing
eight, and the total sum would be $60 million overall
... which they will lend in this particular year."
Notwithstanding falling oil prices recently, Gonsalves
is still convinced that renewable energy is the way
to go for St Vincent and the Grenadines.
"In days gone by, when diesel was 15 dollars or less
per barrel, there was no real urgency to address the
other forms of energy," he tells IPS.
One-quarter of the 20 megawatts of electricity
generated during peak demand in this multi-island
nation comes from the country s three hydropower
plants. The remaining 15 megawatts is generated by
diesel, 70 million dollars worth of which was imported
in 2013 for electricity generation.
"We want to make the hydro plants more efficient
... and we want to do solar, and we are doing solar,
and we want to do geothermal," Gonsalves tells IPS,
adding that geothermal energy can carry a base load
of 98 per cent of the country s energy needs, whereas
solar could possibly generate 20 per cent --- or higher
with improved technology.
"So, even if you have a lot of solar, you are still
going to need the hydro and the geothermal and the
diesel to carry the base," he tells IPS, adding that the
country has a good geothermal source.
Outside of geothermal and hydropower, St Vincent
and the Grenadines is already taking steps
to cash in on the warm tropical sunshine
that bathes the nation almost year-round.
The country has some 750 kilowatt hours
of photovoltaic installations, including a 10
kilowatt-hour installation on the Financial
Complex---which houses the Office of the
Prime Minister---that has seen the cooling
cost at that building slashed by some 20 per
Most of the solar installations are owned
by the state electricity company, St Vincent
Electricity Services Ltd. (VINLEC), which
has a legal monopoly on the commercial
generation and distribution of electricity.
VINLEC has 557 kilowatt-hours of solar
photovoltaic panels at its Cane Hall Power
Plants, east of Kingstown, and another in
Lowmans Bay, west of the capital, where
another diesel power plant is also located.
The state-owned company has invested
one million dollars in the panels, but the
impact on the size of consumer s electricity
bill is expected to be negligible; a few cents
All of the solar panels installed across the
country, however, are expected to reduce by
800 tonnes annually the amount of green-
house gases that St Vincent and the
Grenadines emits into the atmosphere.
"Now, 800 tonnes is not a significant
number in global terms, but what it points
to is that we are making our contribution
as a small island developing state, and it is
in that context of the geothermal that this
visit arises," Prime Minister Gonsalves says.
Greenhouse gases are a primary driver of
climate change, which has resulted in sev-
eral---sometimes unseasonal---severe weather
events in St Vincent and the Grenadines
over the past few years.
St Vincent embarks on renewable energy path
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