its procurement process and supplier quality, it has taken
four years for the initial source well drilling and the project
won’t be online until about the year 2023.
Independent residential solar electricity generation is just
starting to gain traction, but the government charges severe
duties and taxes on imported solar equipment at the port,
which is having a detrimental effect on uptake. These penalties seem to be in direct confict to the government’s
declaration that it would like to make the island 100 percent renewable by 2020. Hopefully the government will
soon implement its updated and recently released energy
policy, and eliminate penalties to support small investors
looking to convert to renewable energy generation.
Opportunity for Energy Export
One signifcant opportunity for Montserrat exists in geothermal
energy export. While local demand may currently be limited,
within 150 miles from the island sits the larger islands of Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, and
others. Together they represent a demand of more than 200 MW.
In addition, they are hungry for cheaper energy. Current data
indicates that the Montserrat volcano could supply this amount
through advances in directional drilling and generating technologies. These islands are all within commercially viable distance
to supply through underwater cabling.
Unfortunately the recently elected PDM government of Montserrat (2014), who is responsible for these decisions, has seemingly
closed the door on public-private partnership options on a number
of needed infrastructure projects. It has publicly stated that there
is limited interest in exploring the potential of geothermal export
The Minister of Energy is focused on the development of small-scale solar and insists that his government will secure direct
construction funding from various public agencies, either from
the UK or the EU, however the recent Brexit decision may impact
these funding sources.
If Montserrat would reconsider a progressive change to its current investment policy that refects the intent of its updated energy policy, and begin to consider private sector partnership, it
could lead to a number of downstream benefts fairly quickly. A
new industry in geothermal generation would be established that
would create large-scale economic growth for this small island,
present higher skilled jobs for
locals (and its talented diaspora who may want to return),
and potentially attract additional high energy use companies to the island.
Montserrat would be the
frst Caribbean island nation
to claim 100 percent renewable energy production, and
one of only a handful around
the world. Most importantly, its local population would
enjoy signifcantly reduced
electricity charges, which
would produce increased and
much needed spending power
in other areas of the economy, and in turn provide the
opportunity for this country
to take care of itself again. à
Ralph Birkhoff is Director of Business Development
for Alquimi Renewables, a
US/Caribbean based project development and fnance/
technology facilitator in the
renewable energy sector.
Volcano on the island
of Montserrat. Credit: