Reducing the cost of energy is a major priority of the New Democratic Party (NDP). It impacts everything: cost of living for all the members of our population, particularly the poor, and it is equally critical to the cost of doing business and therefore creating jobs. Whether it is commercial or industrial businesses or your home, energy must be used, and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines energy is costly.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has long benefited from renewable energy in its national energy balance, in the form of hydro power. And the government has begun exploratory drilling for geothermal energy. It must be noted that the NDP supports the geothermal energy initiative by the government. In our manifesto of 2015, it was stated that an NDP government will immediately set up a geothermal project management unit within the ministry responsible for energy, to pursue a coherent, focused agenda for the exploration and development of our country’s geothermal energy resources.
In fact, in the mid 1990s, the former NDP administration studied the feasibility of geothermal energy and it was confirmed that the north western quadrant of St. Vincent on the flanks of the Soufriere volcano was favourable for the discovery of commercially exploitable geothermal resources. Therefore, the NDP has all right to claim ownership of the project.
However, there are many concerns of the project which include financing and how geothermal energy will affect the cost of electricity. Questions have also been asked about the withdrawal of Emera from the project. Most Vincentians were not aware that Emera is no longer involved in the project until the last sitting of parliament when Dr. Friday asked a question of the Prime Minister. His question was; what is the status of the power purchase agreement being negotiated between the government/VINLEC and the geothermal owners/operators and will it result in lower electricity prices for the consumers? As usual, Dr. Gonsalves rumbled around the question but revealed, “On the 25th November, 2018 Emera Caribbean Incorporated (ECI) indicated to the government that it was not in Emera’s best interest at this time or for all concerned in the project for them to remain in the project and gave notice to exit from the St. Vincent Geothermal project.” We recall when the Geothermal Resources Bill was presented in parliament our members expressed their concerns about the approach to the development of the geothermal energy project by the Unity Labour Party government.
The facts are that Gonsalves and his men have no credibility on energy matters. But, they are talking about exporting electricity to Barbados, based on geothermal. Be reminded that in January 2006, Gonsalves touted the benefits of Petro Caribe, and he told Vincentians that we would see reduced electricity prices. He said from his 2006 budget presentation: “When the Petro Caribe arrangements are fully established, we would be sharing this increasing benefit with the consumer by offsetting a portion of the fuel price at the pump and in the fuel surcharge.” Vincentians are still waiting.
The NDP has the expertise and will do a better job in the implementation and management of the geothermal project. Furthermore, Our energy policy will put energy sustainability at front and center of the national energy equation, which will translate into reduced foreign exchange outflows, lower energy prices and improved competitiveness of the private sector; through geothermal energy, solar energy and wind energy.
At present, the government through VINLEC, is following an inefficient approach to solar photovoltaics (PV) development, which does not optimize the overall development of renewable energy in the country and does not provide sufficient incentive for private consumers to invest in PV. This sub-optimal approach will be discontinued in favour of a policy approach that puts the strategic maximization of renewable energy at the center of the picture and will incentivize local private sector involvement. Low-income households will not be left out: the NDP government will partner with an established enterprise to provide small, self-contained PV electricity systems that can provide basic lighting and phone charging.
The use of solar energy for water heating will be expanded through the application of a coherent programme of tax and financial incentives to homeowners, hotels, businesses and institutions. Hotels, businesses and households will be able to apply for tax write-offs on the purchase of solar water heaters in the year of acquisition, and local lending institutions will be facilitated to access low-interest funding, available for on-lending for private solar energy development.
Wind measurements in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have already indicated that wind is a readily-available energy resource. However, it seems that previously identified wind energy sites on mainland St. Vincent are now no longer available due to their proximity to the airport site at Argyle. The NDP government will study, using regional best-practices as a model, the options for the development of wind energy on St Vincent and in the Grenadines.
Whatever the source of our energy, it needs to be used more efficiently. The NDP’s vision is to move the nation towards adopting a culture of energy efficiency. This will be led by example from government level and will involve a comprehensive programme targeted at the transport, household, business and government sectors. Also, to improve the efficiency in the provision of energy on a multi-island state such as ours, the NDP will work through VINLEC to undertake a technical and economic feasibility study of the development of an interconnected national power grid, which will ultimately be 80% powered by renewable energy.
The NDP is committed to providing Vincentians with cheaper energy; and has a vision for a sustainable energy future for our country. The Unity Labour Party has failed Vincentians. The time has come for the people to elect the NDP when the next general elections are called.