The coming on stream of a geothermal energy plant in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will not result in an immediate removal of the dreaded fuel surcharge on consumer’s electricity bill.
“We are extremely hopeful that while, in the short-term, geothermal will not eliminate the fuel surcharge, it will make it an item of significantly less concern to electricity consumers,” Chief Executive officer of VINLEC Thornley Myers said on Monday.
Speaking Monday in Bamboo Range, near Rabacca, at a ceremony to mark the official commencement of the exploratory drilling as part of the geothermal project, Myers said:
“The existence of a geothermal plant generating electricity means that VINLEC will use significantly less diesel for the generation of electricity and we will, therefore, not be as exposed to the ups and downs of fuel prices and the international market.
“The identification and exploration of the country’s geothermal resources could convert St. Vincent into one of the countries in the Caribbean whose electricity network would be powered completely from green and renewable energy resources.”
Myers said that despite the contribution that hydroelectricity continues to make — 16 per cent of electricity currently generated — the cost of electricity in SVG continues to be among the highest in the region.
Successive governments have sought to address the matter and, to date, there is a constant in the electricity supply that has made this virtually impossible.
“And this is due to the role of diesel as the prime supply for the generation of electricity,” Myers said, adding that the situation dates back to 1974 and continues to the present, as Vincentians continue to bemoan the presence of the fuel surcharge on their electricity bill.
Myers said that, globally, there is interest in geothermal because of the potential to lower the cost of electricity.
He said that in SVG, the interest goes beyond the obvious and extends to the potential social and economic benefits of lower energy cost as well as interest in reducing the nation’s carbon footprint resulting from the burning of fossil fuel for the production of electricity.
The drilling of four wells, which began last week, is expected to be completed by December.
However, the government expects to know before then, the true potential of the geothermal energy resource, which is linked to the La Soufriere Volcano.
The question that the government is yet to answer is how much of a reduction consumers will see on their electricity bill as a result of the $91-million project.
Myers said that it is projected that, in the short-term, on successful completion of the geothermal drilling and commissioning of the geothermal plant on or close to the site, in excess of 50 per cent of the electricity generated in SVG will be delivered from the geothermal plant.
With approximately 16 per cent of VINLEC’s electricity coming from hydro generation and the company’s efforts at expanding solar, SVG, in four years, could be generating up to 75 per cent of its electricity requirement for indigenous resources, Myers said.
He said that the policy direction of the government speaks to an increasing contribution from local resources for the generation of electricity.
“And together, VINLEC and the government intend to work at ensuring set targets while maintaining the quality and improving the reliability of the electricity system.”
He said the long term impact of reducing and, ultimately, eliminating fossil fuels as the primary source for the generation of electricity is one of self-preservation for SVG as well as our small contribution to saving planet earth.
“The impact of climate change resulting in part from the emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels is all too well known to Vincentians,” Myers said.
“As countries on the frontline of the impact of climate change, we owe it to ourselves and generations to come to not only call on major nations of the world to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing the burning of fossil fuels but also to do whatever little is within our scope to reduce our carbon footprint.
“The harnessing of a resource in St. Vincent for the generation of electricity will certainly make a significant impact and the countries foray into geothermal electricity has received the attention of the international community.”