Saturday, 23 November 2013

News Shoot: Nevis gets serious on geothermal

This week, the convoluted 'power-from-volcano' story of the Caribbean island of Nevis moved a little closer to a happy ending. A tender for the development and operation of a geothermal power plant, by Nevis Renewable Energy International (NREI), was accepted. It is hoped the plant will meet much of the island's energy needs.

NREI won an RFP put out by the island's government and local utility in September. It is a recently-formed consortium, put together by 3 Americans long-involved in developing geothermal energy. It also is backed by large US-based consultancy Tetra Tech, and Alta Rock Energy, a major player on the US geothermal scene.

Despite its US-heavy make up, the company stresses its aim is to keep it local, seeking to 'utilize local resources as much as possible for site development, planning and construction.' It also says it wants to act as a mentor for the Nevis government and locals, in order that the island can serve 'as a center of excellence for geothermal development throughout the West Indies.'

The West Indies is certainly a part of the world hotting up on the geothermal front. There are geothermal projects in the offing in nearby St.Vincent and Dominica. There is a fly in the ointment, though.  West Indies Power (WIPN), the company originally contracted to develop the Nevis' geothermal resource, back in 2009, is not happy with the latest move. It believes it retains exclusive rights to harness the island's volcanic energy, and is fighting in the courts to keep its contract alive. The court threw out its initial application, but is considering an appeal.

as a center of excellence for geothermal development throughout the West Indies. - See more at:
as a center of excellence for geothermal development throughout the West Indies. - See more at: a center of excellence for geothermal development throughout the West Indies. - See more at:
to utilize local resources as much as possible for site development, planning and construction; - See more at: to utilize local resources as much as possible for site development, planning and construction; - See more at:
to utilize local resources as much as possible for site development, planning and construction; - See more at: to utilize local resources as much as possible for site development, planning and construction; - See more at:

Monday, 26 August 2013

News Shoot: Laying down the silicon in St.Croix

Another piece of the plan to see the US Virgin Islands (USVI) unhitched from costly and volatile fossil energy was slotted into place this week. It was announced that Toshiba was breaking ground on a 4MW capacity solar PV plant on St. Crois, the largest island in the US dependency. That is the (nominal) equivalent to 8% of the USVI peak electricity demand.

It follows the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement with the local utility,  Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA). That will see Toshiba provide electricity to WAPA on a fixed-escalator price,over a 20 year contract, with rates starting at $US 0.155/kWh. With retail rates currently around $US 0.34/kWh (and at one time reaching $US 0.50/kWh in 2008), there's presumably much scope for lower retail rates for USVI residents.

And the utility has indicated as much, promising a 'reduction in the fuel surcharge paid by all WAPA customers'. That's combined, of course, with a useful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. As much as a 60% reduction in fossil fuel use, by 2025, is the ultimate aim. So winners all round? Not necessarily.

As on many islands, trust in the local monopoly utility is in short supply - some islanders are asking whether big utility-scale solar is the best way to work USVI's energy transformation. Distributed generation(DG), in particular solar PV on people's homes and businesses, offers another, complementary route. While WAPA does allow customers to take a limited Net Metering approach, the question is how complementary do they want DG to be?

First, under the current Net Metering arrangement, any excess energy generated by the DG customer is zeroed out at the end of each electricity billing year. And second, the caps placed on Net Metering customers - less than a quarter of the capacity of the 4MW plant Toshiba is available - will likely be hit within 2 years. That doesn't leave much room for DG in the mix.

So, for the moment, while the fossil fuels may be on the way out, many islanders are wondering if the dinosaur will be left in charge?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

News Shoot: In Maldives, private sector & international agencies filling gap in RE policy

Since last year's resignation by the Maldives President, Mohamed Nasheed, much has been left hanging in the air in this Indian Ocean nation of atolls and tourist resorts. That has included a bold policy for advancing renewable energy across the Maldive's 192 inhabited islands.

The new president, President Manik, is now seeking to gain funding for a revamped  Sustainable Renewable Energy Project (SREP), that looks to lay the foundation for the islands going carbon-neutral. The 300,000 people living on the Maldives are perhaps those most threatened with national destruction by global warming -- nowhere on the Maldives is higher than 8 feet above sea-level.

In the mean-time, private companies and international donors are having to fill the gap. Head of Renewable Energy Maldives, a private company, had this to say to the local newspaper this week:

“Essentially, we are doing the work despite the government. President Manik’s government has not honored the Memorandums of Understanding signed under the previous government. Additionally, Fenaka – the re-centralised utilities company formed under Waheed’s government – has spent all of 2012 restructuring. Since September 2011, REM and the Japanese Government are the only ones implementing renewable energy projects." [Read details on the Maldives renewable energy efforts  here]

Saturday, 23 March 2013

News Shoot: Bringing walk to the talk - Pacific Energy Summit

It's time for the Pacific to get serious about renewable energy - that's the shout-out coming from the organizer's of the Pacific Energy Summit, being held over the next three days in New Zealand. The summit aims to bring together the leaders of the Pacific's island nations - with their plans for the clean energy transition clasped firmly in hand - and marry them to donors able to turn roadmaps into destinations. A touted aim of the summit is to flip a decade or more of good intentions and pilots schemes into action that will see Pacific islands generating around half of their energy needs renewably.

The island nations are being represented by the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and the Solomon Islands, among many others. On the donor side, the summit has the EU, the Asian Development Bank and Australian AID. The conference co-host is New Zealand; its Foreign Minister, Murray McCully said the summit has the goal of "committing several hundred millions of dollars in new infrastructure.”

Ambitious, but necessary, if the developed world is to help nations at the mercy of both accelerating climate change, and energy infrastructure hooked on fossil-fuels. “What we are attempting is at the very ambitious end of the scale. But the goal of substantially reducing the dependence of Pacific countries on imported diesel for electricity makes this worth a serious effort.” [Read more here]

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

When islands bicker..

The flow of carbon emissions from extraction to consumer. 
We all know that efforts to sow together a global climate change accord have repeatedly come apart at the seams, apparently because of short-sighted national interests. It's called the 'tragedy of the commons' - why should country C (let's call them China..) hold back on its CO2 emissions, when the country U (mmm... maybe the US?) has benefited so much from their inglorious track record of global pollution? And why should country U have to keep cutting its use of the planet's carbon sinks, when country C is so recklessly expanding its use of the same (despite the fact that in a globalized economy the emissions belong to everyone..)

What's not so apparent is that those same arguments, being used by global actors in the tragic drama we call 'climate change', are also being flung around on a much smaller stage - by those those living on some of the islands sitting on the very front-line of global warming. The Hawaiian Islands are just such a provincial venue, and the drama being played out there is a riveting (and increasingly important) one.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

'We are not drowning, we are fighting'

That was the emphatic and positive message being heard in chants, war songs challenges and dances yesterday, from those most immediately threatened by climate change. Celebrating a Warrior Day of Action, young people from fourteen Pacific Island nations took part in protests and demonstrations of their opposition to the energy policies that are driving their nations beneath the waves.

Mikaele Maiava, spokesperson for the '350 Pacific' organization behind the day of action, said they were "laying down a challenge to the fossil fuel industry. It is their coal and oil and gas vs. our future. They cannot both coexist. And it is our future that has to win." And beyond their exhortations, these are nations who are prepared to act as well as chant.

One of the fourteen nations involved - Tokelau in the central Pacific - became the first nation in the world to turn off the diesel generators, and switch on the solar panels,  relying solely on solar for its energy needs. Another, Fiji, is well on its way to achieving a target of 90% energy from renewable sources by 2015 - with nearly half its energy now from renewables.

Such actions stand in stark contrast to the hand-wringing by leaders of the worst polluters like the US and China, whose fine words on climate change mask actions geared for expanding exploitation of fossil fuel resources like coal, tar sands and shale oil. Time for a little Warrior Action from Obama and Jinping?

Monday, 25 February 2013

News Shoot: Isle of Wight home to test 'domestic hydrogen, fuel cell partnership'

The Isle of Wight's EcoIsland project is testing out a tiny piece of the new hydrogen economy. It was announced last week that a house on the island will be trialling hydrogen cell technology hooked up to solar PV, hopefully showing how small-scale renewables can power homes even when the wind doesn't blow or the sun has set:

"The system integrates a 5 kW hydrogen PEM fuel cell system from Dantherm Power with an Acta EL500 electrolyser. This system is powered by renewable off-grid power, and when installed will generate hydrogen directly from the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the house. The hydrogen will be stored in cylinders, and fed to the fuel cell when energy is needed – for example, to power the home's night-time energy requirements.." [More here]

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Geothermal - getting all steamy in paradise

It sounds so simple.

Take one volcanic island, drill some holes, lay some pipes and bingo! Hot water by the bathful, and steam enough to  power your island to clean green energy independence - with plenty left over to consider supplying your neighbour islands. That was certainly the plan on Nevis Island, the tiny Caribbean island paired with St.Kitts, back in 2007.

Nevis geothermal well letting off steam
According to the script, a 10 MW proof-of-concept geothermal plant, aiming to tap the heat simmering under Nevis Island's distinctive volcano, would be enough to cover all of the 12,000 citizens baseload electricity needs. And with up to 500 MW of geothermal potential remaining to be tapped, that extra energy could then be exported,via subsea cable, to neighbouring St Kitts, across the Caribbean Sea to Antigua - or even to Puerto Rico, 150 miles to the north-west, and beyond.

Murky start to project

The problem is that, five years later, there is little to show for the $10 million-costed project, apart from 3 holes in the ground. That and a grinding lawsuit in the court. The contract to develop Nevis Island's geothermal resource was signed with St. Kitts-based West Indies Power (WIP). But it was an opaque deal, by many accounts, lacking in any semblance of open process or competitive bidding.