by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – According to a study from Oxford and Utrecht Universities, “the world will almost certainly pass a point of no return in our response to global warming if governments worldwide fail to transition from fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, towards renewable energy by 2035.”
‘Climate change’ is the major driving force behind the call.
Weather experts have repeatedly highlighted the changes in the rainy seasons, the longer droughts, and the increasing intensity of hurricanes.
That brings us home to the Caribbean; in the last five years, the region has experienced a devastating increase in severe weather.
The Caribbean in 2017 suffered from the onslaught of two category five hurricanes, Irma and Maria, one week apart.
In 2020, while nations grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, that infected more than 83 million and killed over 1.8 million people globally, the record for the total number of named storms in an Atlantic Hurricane season was broken.
An article published in National Geographic argued that greenhouse gasses have far-reaching effects on the environment.
“They cause climate change by trapping heat, and they also contribute to respiratory disease from smog and air pollution. Extreme weather, food supply disruptions, and increased wildfires are other effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gases. The typical weather patterns we’ve grown to expect will change; some species will disappear; others will migrate or grow.”
The prevailing scientific opinion on how to slow the effect of climate change is “renewable’ energy.
The question then becomes:
Would the government or the private sector lead the movement to renewable energy?
A 2016 report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean’s (ECLAC) stated that engagement with countries and stakeholders revealed tangible evidence to show that aspects of an energy revolution are taking place in the sub-region.
The report identifies the use of mini-hydropower plants as the proven technology in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; while Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis are on the way to tapping their geothermal sources of energy.
Antigua and Barbuda completed installations of a solar power plant, with similar initiatives operational in St. Kitts and Nevis, and Aruba.
Wind farms already dot the Caribbean landscape in Jamaica, Aruba, and Nevis, while both commercial and residential application of solar water heating is commonplace in Barbados, St. Lucia, and Grenada.
The application of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technologies have received serious consideration in the Cayman Islands and many other regional economies are already showing signs of gearing themselves to confront these changes.
On St. Kitts, we have an over-reliance on the current fossil fuel system.
November 12, 2020, saw an island-wide power outage caused by a fire at the SKELEC power plant.
The power was fortunately restored within 24 hours to the credit of the SKELEC workers.
More recently, on January 13, 2021, a similar situation occurred.
There was another island-wide blackout attributed to problems with the generator switchgear.
In a conversation with a returning student, who studied energy and environmental physics, he mentioned that in his educated opinion, the issues stem from the heavy reliance on the sole power plant on the island.
When asked what would be the recommendation to fix the issues, his immediate reply was ‘renewable energy’.
It would cost close to EC$300 million and take five to ten years to complete that journey from fossil fuels to 100 percent green energy for St. Kitts and Nevis, he estimated.
This year’s federal budget for St. Kitts and Nevis has allocated EC$ 2,757,04.00 to the Ministry of Environment and Cooperatives, which is in charge of energy efficiency in the nation.
Locally, efforts to go green include solar farms on St. Kitts, the recent groundbreaking for an additional solar plant, as well as the windmill farm in Nevis, and a geothermal initiative recently re-announced in Nevis.
One of the solar farms built in 2013 was a joint venture of the governments of St Kitts and Nevis and Taiwan, SCASPA, the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF), and the St Kitts Electricity Corporation (SKELEC). The US $2.5 million solar farm is expected to save SCASPA more than EC$1 million in electricity costs annually.
On December 10, 2020, officials broke ground at the Basseterre Valley National Park, for another solar generation and storage project expected to provide about 30 to 35 percent of St. Kitts, baseload energy needs for the next 20-25 years while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 740,000 metric tons.
The US$70 million microgrid project is being built by Leclanche, one of the world’s leading energy storage companies and will serve as the prime engineering, procurement, and construction contractor.
On Nevis, a 2.2 MW Wind Farm at a cost of EC$10 million has been constructed at Maddens Estate on Nevis supplying wind energy to the electricity grid.
Through a contract with the Developer WindWatt, a Canadian company, Nevis Electricity Company Limited (NEVLEC) is obligated to purchase up to 1.6 MW of energy according to the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between the two companies.
That agreement was signed on July 14, 2009.
Twelve years ago, drilling for geothermal energy began at Spring Hill in Nevis.
The geothermal reservoir there was discovered in June 2008.
It was announced then that at the completion of the project 50 megawatts of power would be generated – 10 megawatts would meet Nevis’s demand and the rest would be exported via submarine cables to St. Kitts and nearby islands.
More than a decade later, Nevis has not produced any geothermal energy for internal use or for export.
On November 26, 2020, Premier Mark Brantley spoke again about Nevis tapping geothermal energy after being questioned about the realistic nature of the project considering the struggles of other countries in the region to make geothermal energy a reality.
Renewable energy would free the Federation, and countries on a whole, from reliance on fossil fuels, oil refineries, insurgencies in nations where natural oil resources are abundant but people are poor, and oil spills that have negatively affected the environment.
On a personal level, renewable energy would significantly reduce expenses in many homes across the nation.
And, finally, renewable energy would represent energy independence and cut the price of electricity to a fifth of what it costs today in St. Kitts-Nevis.