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Regional and International Cooperation: A Strategy To Overcoming Longstanding Challenges In Geothermal Development In The Caribbean
For decades several Caribbean islands have been working to develop their geothermal resources. Despite these efforts and scientific evidence that suggests viable resources, with the exception of Guadeloupe, no other island has achieved commercial operation of a geothermal plant to date. The Caribbean is particularly affected by high electricity costs which are in some instances as much as five times higher than electricity costs in the United States and other regions. This is primarily a result of the region’s high dependence on imported fossil fuels. Successful geothermal energy development would redound to multiple benefits for the region, however several challenges, mainly due to small scale of projects and limited technical capacity need to be successfully addressed. Most of the proposed power plants have a nameplate capacity of less than 20 MW, which poses economic challenges and challenges to attract reputable developers and investors. This paper identifies the techno-economic challenges to geothermal development and utilization common to Caribbean islands with geothermal potential for electricity generation. The paper also proposes a pathway towards achieving the region’s geothermal energy goals primarily through combining several national geothermal projects and through regional and international collaboration on geothermal exploration and development in the region. The paper examines where it is most useful to combine efforts on geothermal, how this can be achieved, and the prerequisites for success, to benefit from economies of scale. Opportunities are identified for all stages of geothermal energy development, taking into consideration existing institutional structures, regulatory frameworks, existing and emerging business models and financing models. Such an approach will improve the economic viability of the projects and will allow for the identification of innovative solutions and the adoption of best practices.
Iceland has long been recognized as an industry leader in Geothermal Energy. In recent years the Caribbean region has benefitted from specialized geothermal training from Iceland. At present the human resources on each island are limited and, in some cases, the trained personnel are not actively working on the ongoing projects. A regional approach to tapping into this pool of technical expertise could prove to be a key factor in successful project development for the region. Developing a proactive system to engage regional geothermal experts would support sustainability for the future.
Regional and international collaboration on geothermal energy could be expanded beyond geothermal power to other direct uses of geothermal resources, helping to create new economic opportunities through a multi-stakeholder approach and collaboration across non-energy sectors.
The authors collectively have diverse decades long backgrounds in most aspects of geothermal energy in Iceland and the Caribbean.