St. Lucia Advances Energy Policy

26 June, 2014 – Gov’t Meets Development Partners by Stan Bishop

THE hosting of an Energy Development Partners Forum last week is expected to contribute immensely to developing Saint Lucia’s sustainable energy programme.

The two-day forum at the Bay Gardens Hotel brought together key international development partners that Saint Lucia is currently working with to develop that programme. One of the aims of the forum was to share with the stakeholders Saint Lucia’s current state as it relates to that crucial area as well as to get insights from them as to the best way forward.

Representatives from New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade, Energie de Martinique, Clinton Climate Initiative, Caribbean Development Bank and Carbon War Room were on hand during a press conference summoned by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology between sessions. Dr. James Fletcher, who holds that ministerial portfolio, chaired that press conference.

Dr. Fletcher said that via presentations and roundtable discussions held during the forum, areas such as energy financing, renewable energy, energy efficiency and transport were pored over. He said that based on preliminary discussions with certain partners, Saint Lucia stood to benefit from much-needed assistance.

“What they’re doing right now is developing that road map and seeing how they fit in,” the minister said. “There has been some commitment from New Zealand, for example, which has made a commitment to assist us with our geothermal programme…I’ve also been doing some bilateral (talks) with all of the partners. So while they’ve been meeting around the roundtable, I’ve been meeting with every single one of them to get a little bit more out of them on how they see themselves assisting us.”

Dr. Fletcher said the subject of geothermal energy has received “a significant amount of commitment”, referring to it as “our big ticket item”. He acknowledged that since undertaking the exploration of geothermal energy is a costly and extensive venture, local officials have not been able to make as much inroads in that area as they would like. Nevertheless, the government is keeping hope alive, Dr. Fletcher said.

“One of our partners, the World Bank, has met with the government to see how we can operationalize a $2 million grant that we’ve been able to get from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) that the World Bank will be executing on our behalf for geothermal development,” the minister said.

Kathleen Pierce, the Deputy Director, Global Bilateral Division for the New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade Aid Programme, said that since New Zealand already possesses a high level of expertise in the area of geothermal energy, Saint Lucia stood to benefit immensely from their know-how.

“New Zealand has a large number of geothermal plants operational in our country, so we have a lot of expertise in this area and we are looked to around the world for support,” Pierce said. “We are talking with the (Saint Lucia) government about helping with some of the early surface exploration – the geophysics, the geoscience and the really technical bits you need to know so that you can be sure of what resource you have and where you should put the next drill.”

Aside from geothermal energy, Saint Lucia faces an uphill battle as it attempts to reduce its dependency on fossil fuel. According to the Government of Saint Lucia’s Social and Economic Review (2012), the importation of commercial energy rose by 3.9% in 2012 to 1,434,470 barrels of oil. That dependence has hurt the local economy immensely. For example, in 2012 the average cost of electricity was US$0.38 per kWh, which makes the local cost one of the highest electricity tariffs in the world. This translates to Saint Lucia’s regional and competitiveness being eroded, thus hampering economic growth.

In 2010, the government approved the National Energy Policy (NEP) which provided the appropriate policy and legislative environment to utilize greater renewable energy so as to lower the cost and price volatility of electricity, thereby reducing the island’s dependency on foreign oil. The National Energy Policy set a renewable energy target of 5% of energy generated by last year, 15% by 2015, and 30% by 2020. While Saint Lucia has been unable to achieve those goals thus far, Dr. Fletcher said last week’s forum strengthens government’s resolve to changing that course. However, there are limitations to those efforts.

“What I think is the biggest stumbling block in allowing that energy policy that was passed by Cabinet in 2010 to bear fruit is the legislative and regulatory environment. The fact is that you have something called the Electricity Supply Act that gives LUCELEC an 80-year monopoly on the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. That monopoly came into effect on July 1, 1965 and will end on June 30, 2045. So LUCELEC has another 31-year monopoly for the generation, transmission and distribution (of electricity). So anything that happens in the electricity sector in Saint Lucia happens because LUCELEC will allow it to happen,” Dr. Fletcher said.


Reposted from the St. Lucia Voice: