Categorized | Features, General

De Ole Dawg – Part 8: Contribution

What about energy and development?

BRADES, Montserrat, Nov 10, 2015 – We are now on to lion no. 5 in the pride of development challenges: energy.

Why is that so?

Some basics drawn from the 2008 – 27 Montserrat Energy policy that is currently under revision with help from CARICOM, will help us understand, so please bear with some technical stuff.

First, in science, if something can be made to do physical work, it is or contains a form of energy. So, since volcanic heat in underground waters can be used to make electricity and “the fire in de wire” can then  turn a fan to cool us off, the heat and the electricity contain energy. Hence, the importance of Geothermal Energy. Minister Lewis is also proposing to develop solar photovoltaic electricity generation, as sunlight also contains energy. A few years back, there was talk of windmills, and at the turn of the 1990’s we actually had some wind generated electricity on our grid.

Secondly, physical energy and work are connected to work on the job because if someone values it enough to pay for it, using a push, pull or twist to move things about in desired ways is an economically valuable service. For which, we can then have a market with the intersection of supply and demand setting the price. So, when we pay bus fare or for the gas in your car or for electricity, we see the connection between the physical and the economic forms of work.

The 2008 energy policy showed these linkages by tying energy sources to energy equipment and energy services:

[SOURCE:GoM]

[SOURCE:GoM]

According to a presentation to the EU by Minister Lewis, June 17, 2015, here in Montserrat we now spend 65% of our electricity tariffs on the fuel surcharge (and that is with oil prices fairly low for about a year) and yet we have a geothermal electricity potential estimated by the UWI Seismic Unit at 940 MWe.  (Currently, Montserrat’s peak electrical load is about 2 MW.)

So, even though the first two wells seem to be estimated at about 1.5 to 2 MW (news stories vary), if we can develop a good slice of the 940 MW potential, we will have a major energy asset for economic re-development. Unfortunately, as the high cost and less than glowing success results to date show, geothermal exploration and development are both expensive and a bit risky. Let’s pray that the upcoming well no. 3 will do better.

There is a proposal to develop solar photovoltaic electricity and there was talk about developing wind energy. These would be less risky than drilling wells for geothermal energy, but depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing. They are therefore prone to fluctuate and vary with time of day and season of the year. That makes them less desirable than geothermal energy which is one of the most reliable forms of electricity generation. But, they can be brought on line relatively quickly; geothermal energy is likely to be a few years away.

(Of course, we just took delivery of a 1.5 MW diesel unit, and electricity supply seems to have been more stable in the past few weeks.)

Another main use for energy is transportation, both within Montserrat and getting to Montserrat.  However, while there has been talk of electric cars, bio-fuels, hydrogen as an energy carrier and fuel cells etc., it seems that for now we are going to be relying on oil-based fuels, and the oil market that can suddenly shoot prices up to very high levels and keep high for years at a time – as we can see for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), via NASDAQ:

(CREDIT: NASDAQ)

(CREDIT: NASDAQ)

That jagged curve with its 2008 peak that approached US$150 per 44 US gallon barrel for oil and subsequent lingering close to US$ 100 per barrel for years after that is sobering. For, energy is a major cost factor in our economy, and high oil prices therefore make it hard for our economy to recover and move ahead. A sustainable energy future for Montserrat, obviously, moves away from oil to greener sources. Which will require that we build the capacity to carry out that transformation.

Our obvious hope is that we can develop geothermal energy, and that we can gradually move to a more sustainable energy basis for our economy. One, that as much as possible is not dependent on fossil fuels. Thankfully, that strategy is already under way. As, is the proposal to develop an energy unit to take the lead in the green energy effort, as was put forward since 2008. It would also be wise to pass a law to regulate development of geothermal energy, perhaps one based on the laws in other EC territories that were developed through the Geo-Caraibes project.

Again, we have the St Helena £ 250 million airport project as a yardstick, we have means and opportunity. So, if not now, then when – and why?

ENDS –

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

What about energy and development?

BRADES, Montserrat, Nov 10, 2015 – We are now on to lion no. 5 in the pride of development challenges: energy.

Why is that so?

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Some basics drawn from the 2008 – 27 Montserrat Energy policy that is currently under revision with help from CARICOM, will help us understand, so please bear with some technical stuff.

First, in science, if something can be made to do physical work, it is or contains a form of energy. So, since volcanic heat in underground waters can be used to make electricity and “the fire in de wire” can then  turn a fan to cool us off, the heat and the electricity contain energy. Hence, the importance of Geothermal Energy. Minister Lewis is also proposing to develop solar photovoltaic electricity generation, as sunlight also contains energy. A few years back, there was talk of windmills, and at the turn of the 1990’s we actually had some wind generated electricity on our grid.

Secondly, physical energy and work are connected to work on the job because if someone values it enough to pay for it, using a push, pull or twist to move things about in desired ways is an economically valuable service. For which, we can then have a market with the intersection of supply and demand setting the price. So, when we pay bus fare or for the gas in your car or for electricity, we see the connection between the physical and the economic forms of work.

The 2008 energy policy showed these linkages by tying energy sources to energy equipment and energy services:

[SOURCE:GoM]

[SOURCE:GoM]

According to a presentation to the EU by Minister Lewis, June 17, 2015, here in Montserrat we now spend 65% of our electricity tariffs on the fuel surcharge (and that is with oil prices fairly low for about a year) and yet we have a geothermal electricity potential estimated by the UWI Seismic Unit at 940 MWe.  (Currently, Montserrat’s peak electrical load is about 2 MW.)

So, even though the first two wells seem to be estimated at about 1.5 to 2 MW (news stories vary), if we can develop a good slice of the 940 MW potential, we will have a major energy asset for economic re-development. Unfortunately, as the high cost and less than glowing success results to date show, geothermal exploration and development are both expensive and a bit risky. Let’s pray that the upcoming well no. 3 will do better.

There is a proposal to develop solar photovoltaic electricity and there was talk about developing wind energy. These would be less risky than drilling wells for geothermal energy, but depend on the sun shining and the wind blowing. They are therefore prone to fluctuate and vary with time of day and season of the year. That makes them less desirable than geothermal energy which is one of the most reliable forms of electricity generation. But, they can be brought on line relatively quickly; geothermal energy is likely to be a few years away.

(Of course, we just took delivery of a 1.5 MW diesel unit, and electricity supply seems to have been more stable in the past few weeks.)

Another main use for energy is transportation, both within Montserrat and getting to Montserrat.  However, while there has been talk of electric cars, bio-fuels, hydrogen as an energy carrier and fuel cells etc., it seems that for now we are going to be relying on oil-based fuels, and the oil market that can suddenly shoot prices up to very high levels and keep high for years at a time – as we can see for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), via NASDAQ:

(CREDIT: NASDAQ)

(CREDIT: NASDAQ)

That jagged curve with its 2008 peak that approached US$150 per 44 US gallon barrel for oil and subsequent lingering close to US$ 100 per barrel for years after that is sobering. For, energy is a major cost factor in our economy, and high oil prices therefore make it hard for our economy to recover and move ahead. A sustainable energy future for Montserrat, obviously, moves away from oil to greener sources. Which will require that we build the capacity to carry out that transformation.

Our obvious hope is that we can develop geothermal energy, and that we can gradually move to a more sustainable energy basis for our economy. One, that as much as possible is not dependent on fossil fuels. Thankfully, that strategy is already under way. As, is the proposal to develop an energy unit to take the lead in the green energy effort, as was put forward since 2008. It would also be wise to pass a law to regulate development of geothermal energy, perhaps one based on the laws in other EC territories that were developed through the Geo-Caraibes project.

Again, we have the St Helena £ 250 million airport project as a yardstick, we have means and opportunity. So, if not now, then when – and why?

ENDS –