This was the question on the lips of every person listening to the Hon. Arnhim Eustace as he delivered the President’s address at the NDP convention last Sunday. Eustace, speaking to the party faithful, took a look at the state of the economy, productive sectors including tourism and agriculture, and made his first real substantive comment on geothermal energy. Eustace made it clear that the NDP supports the exploration of our country for geothermal energy.
Calling Gonsalves a follower, not a leader on energy, he outlined that what Gonsalves is attempting to do today, in seeking to explore the geothermal resource capacity of this country was done by Dominica’s government as they explored Dominica’s core starting in 2007/08 and set up that nation’s geothermal project. Dominica explored, drilled and proved the existence and extent of their geothermal asset, spending in the process $32M financed by EU grant funds and taxpayer’s money. Gonsalves at the same time in 2007 had entered an agreement with someone called Croghan who has since disappeared. Eustace called him a “fly by night”.
Eustace was highly critical, expressing grave concerns over Gonsalves’ agreement with private companies EMERA out of Canada and Reykjavik Geothermal out of Iceland which will see those companies risking their own finances to explore what should be a resource owned by the government and people of St. Vincent, as it is in Dominica. Citing Gonsalves’ own words “Now, no one seriously believes that EMERA will come to St. Vincent to put in the facilities to generate only 10 megawatts of power. They have their eye on a larger prize’, Eustace outlined that where private investors take all the risk, they must want a return on their investment. He wondered, with millions being spent, and not by government, whether the government would have to sell VINLEC in much the same way as they sold the NCB in order to pay back the private investors for the monies they would have to spend up front. The NDP leader pointed out the EMERA owns Barbados Light and Power Electricity Company.
Eustace asked the audience, “What is EMERA going to get for spending all the money and taking all the risk up front? What is this “larger prize” that Gonsalves is talking about?
Do not underestimate that question. What is the larger prize that EMERA has their eyes on? And why should Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of a sovereign state, be interested in the larger prize to be acquired by a private company?” The question must be will VINLEC be sold to EMERA? Is this part of an agreement already brokered and signed?
Dominica’s long term geothermal project should see them able to export energy to Guadeloupe and Martinique by undersea cables.
Their project is totally government owned.