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PM tells ‘forest users’ that planes won’t be monitoring them

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Forest users here have been told to expect increased aerial activity now that the geothermal development project in the La Soufriere mountains is advancing.{{more}}

In Parliament on Tuesday, August 19, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves explained that the Consortium of Light and Power Holdings (a subsidiary of Emera Inc and Reykjavik Geothermal) has approved another level of investment in the geothermal project of US$1.3 million.

Gonsalves explained that because of the rough terrain in the area, planes will be used to facilitate the use of specialised technology that will detect “geothermal anomalies.”

“Very shortly, we are going to see these planes flying over. I want… to indicate to forest users that these planes are entirely innocent,” he said. “They are doing mapping… they are not in search of anything else.”

He pointed out that since his Government came into power, there has been no use of aircraft “to address any form of agriculture in the hills.”

“I just want to make it plain that if you see planes, they are associated with the geothermal project.”

This project, which began in late 2012, stands to provide over 90 per cent of the base load required to provide electricity to St Vincent and the Grenadines, should it be successfully implemented.

“This Consortium has been parenting the development rights and is now in the process of evaluating the potential associated with the development of a geothermal plant with a capacity in the range of 5 – 15 megawatts to provide base load power,” said the Prime Minister.

The first round of this current phase began on August 18, and is estimated to be complete by June 2015 when a business model will be made available and drilling can commence after all contacts and private/public partnership agreements have been negotiated.

This project phase will also include an infrastructure study, an environmental impact assessment study and a volcanic risk mitigation study.

The Prime Minister disclosed that should all go according to schedule, the geothermal plant will be commissioned to provide electricity to VINLEC (for distribution) by June 2018.

“VINLEC is hoping it is even earlier, but that is the timeline that’s being given.”

The Prime Minister went on to explain that once this current project phase has ended, his Government has already lined up regional and international organisations to contribute to the funding of the project.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (based in the United Arab Emirates), the Caribbean Development Bank and the Japan International Corporation Agency are among those organisations.

Gonsalves asserted that gaining funding from these sources would decrease the overall cost of the project while “increasing the Government’s equity.”

“If we were to get a significant amount of the monies either as grants or soft loans, the extent of the equities which they themselves will have to put in… will be reduced to that extent, and then a product that is reflective of the kind of pricing that you will have for the commodity at the end of the day.”

The Prime Minister also informed Parliament that the legal framework for the project is being finalised and should either be ready for the next sitting of Parliament or the one after.

He further said that the Government of New Zealand is offering technical assistance for the geothermal project.

Additionally, the Prime Minister said that other funding has been sourced for other renewable sources of energy including: US$1.7 million from Global Environmental Facility (GEF) for a project focused on reducing GHG emissions from fossil fuel based power generation; and another US$917,400 from GEF to establish and implement measures for sustainable development within the building sector.

There is also a US$1.25 million proposal before the World Bank for energy-saving installations at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.(JSV)

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