March 26, 2008
The Observer Newspaper
“Lets Avoid the Hype of Geothermal”
I have heard the oft repeated mantra by the NRP led Nevis Island Administration that the current exploration underway for geothermal energy will be the saviour for Nevis and that Nevis will become the supplier of electricity for St. Kitts, Anguilla, Saba, St. Maarten and as far away as the United States Virgin Islands. In a recent article in the Herald Newspaper in St. Maarten, the company now undertaking the exploration in Nevis, has raised expectations to astonishing degrees for the geothermal experiment.
I wish to say clearly that all of us welcome the geothermal exploration. Indeed Nevisians will remember that it was the vision of the Concerned Citizens Movement Administration under the astute direction of the Honourable A. Michael Perkins as the responsible Minister which began the geothermal project in Nevis and advanced the project to a significant degree with the help of the Organization of American States, the French Government and agencies of the United Nations under the then GeoCaraibes project. I was privileged to have assisted the CCM Administration as a legal consultant on this critical process and an OECS wide legal team was set up involving lawyers from St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis. So advanced was the matter that we met in St. Kitts to discuss the legislative framework for the regulation and control of the industry and draft legislation and regulations were actually prepared with the help of OAS consultants. I hasten to say that so far as I am aware this process did not cost the Government and people of Nevis a cent. A simple Google search for GeoCaraibes will demonstrate how advanced this project was under the CCM Administration with the help of international partners. The process was transparent and ably guided by the international community at no cost to the Nevis taxpayer.
All this changed in July 2006 when the Government in Nevis fell into the hands of the NRP. Suddenly the OAS and other international agencies were summarily discarded and the geothermal project for Nevis suddenly fell into the hands of NRP’s Rawle Isaac and a group of foreign investors calling themselves West Indies Power. Nevisians have seen trucks and drilling rigs moving all over Nevis and have heard much ado by Government Ministers on the prospects of geothermal. What we have not been told is what the terms of the deal with West Indies Power look like and whether Nevis and the NRP has in fact sold the resource (if found) to these investors? It is not yet clear the terms of the deal with West Indies Power and until those terms are known, we cannot assess the true benefits to the people of Nevis from the exploitation of what is our resource.
I am also concerned that this NRP led Administration is hyping the prospects of geothermal to such a significant degree that Nevis may well become a laughing stock regionally if we cannot ultimately find the resource or find it in such quantities to make a real difference. It astonished me that before a single kilowatt of power is generated for the consumption of the people of Brown Hill or Barnes Ghaut, this NRP is already telling Anguilla, St. Maarten, Saba and the USVI that Nevis will supply them with power. The cost alone of the undersea cables required to transmit power from Nevis to any of the surrounding islands will be tremendous. I am very afraid that Nevis may not be able to live up to the incredible hype being generated by this NRP.
Prudence would seem to dictate that we as a Government and as a people temper the expectations. That we explore this incredible resource and first seek to find it; then to harness it; then to exploit it for the benefit of the people of Nevis. We must first exploit this resource for the maximum benefit of the people of Nevis and then and only then can we sensibly talk about supplying power to neighbouring islands. Let us first make sure that we can access the resource before we start running around the Caribbean like buffoons boasting of solving the power woes of the Eastern Caribbean when we have not yet generated a single kilowatt of power for our own people.
I wish the exploration well and hope to see the CCM and Michael Perkins’ vision of clean, cheap sustainable power for Nevis realized as soon as possible. I also look forward to full disclosure as to the deal with West Indies Power so that we can assess how this exciting resource has been handled by the NRP Government. I also recommend highly that we seek to reengage the experts at the OAS and other international agencies which lends demonstrably to the transparency of the project. Above all I caution prudence and common sense in our approach so that we do not excite expectations to a degree that is unsupported by a resource that has yet to be found far less harnessed and exploited. Let us find power for the people of Nevis first before we trumpet to the surrounding islands that Nevis will solve their power problems. Let us ask our Government to temper its pronouncements before it renders Nevis a laughingstock for the region.