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Revisit approach to geothermal energy – says Opposition

Revisit approach to geothermal energy – says Opposition

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The government has been called upon to revisit their approach to the introduction of geothermal energy in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The debate on the Geothermal Resources Development Bill 2015 began this week in the House of Assembly, with {{more}}parliamentarians on the opposing side calling for a revision of various clauses within the document. Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in opening remarks, noted that the bill was a substantial one, with seven parts and 87 clauses.

“This bill has received very detailed consideration during the select committee stage,” Gonsalves said.

“I begin, Mr Speaker, by reaffirming that this bill seeks to establish a national energy committee and to make provisions for the exploration development and utilization of geothermal resources in a manner that is economically beneficial that ensures

the protection of the country’s environmental resources.”

In a synopsis of the document which went before a select committee, Gonsalves noted that clause two of the bill deals with various definitions, while part two speaks to the establishment of a national energy committee as an advisory body that will have a number of responsibilities, which include advising the minister on matters pertaining to energy.

He also indicated that clause 20 deals with the minister of energy being able to designate portions of land in St Vincent and the Grenadines as geothermal resource areas, while clauses 21 to 26 speak to the procedure to be adopted for such designation.

Additionally, part four of the bill deals with matters pertaining to permits, licences and concessions for the exploration, development and utilization of geothermal resources. Part five deals with matters in respect of electricity generation.

Representative for West Kingstown Daniel Cummings opened the debate on the opposition side of the House and expressed disappointment in the manner that the government has proceeded with the project. He opined that their methodology was sad and “shows a lack of thought, a lack of understanding and a lack of care.

“There can be no doubt that properly done, the exploration of our known geothermal potential can derive considerable benefits to all of the people of this country,” Cummings said.

However, he noted that having attended a consultation with consultants working on the project, he had “a very dark picture of a sinister plot to enrich people at the expense of the people of this country.”

The parliamentarian, making reference to discussions at the consultation, stated that the project expects a 25 per cent reduction in the cost of production of energy in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

He noted that in the project, there will be significant investment in transmission and distribution.

“I am submitting that, for that proposed 25 per cent, if it is possible, Mr Speaker, that we will find ourselves spending millions of dollars, tens of millions of dollars and high electricity costs, being at the same or even higher than it is now, based on this proposal. The methodology used by this government is sad. I want to know, what is the investment by this Government thus far in this project? What is the investment of the people it has hired, the consultants of Emera and Reykjavik?”

According to Central Kingstown representative St Clair Leacock, the government should return to the drawing board so that they could produce a document that spoke to good governance and didn’t cost taxpayers money.

While he agrees that pursuing geothermal energy is a good initiative, he disagreed with the provision in the bill that the project would be managed by a national energy committee.

Instead, the parliamentarian opined that an estab­lished corporation or organization will be better suited to handle the project.

Making reference to various clauses in the bill, Leacock observed that the bill was initially brought to the House in haste and not properly drafted.

“When the bill went back to select committee, some 48 clauses had to be changed,” he said. “They catch themselves. They were talking stupidness and here it has manifested itself.”

Additionally, Leacock stated that the bill displays some subjectivity and called for more definitive clauses to be included.

“It leads me to feel and argue that the many respects to the legislation proposed is inconsistent, incoherent, incomprehensive at times and is being irrational.”

The debate on the bill will continue next Tuesday in the House of Assembly, beginning at 9 a.m. (BK)

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