Monday, August 4, 2008

CEC calls for government to rescind geothermal license

The Clean Energy Corporation, comforted by the solid and unwavering outpouring of support by Dominicans at home and abroad who are aghast by the recent grant of geothermal license to a non-Dominican concern for what appears to be a pittance in ownership share or revenue sharing by the government and people of Dominica, wishes to make the following clear.

We have been the advocates of renewable energy development owned and developed for the benefit of Dominicans from the outset. See at the Project Link: Operation Energy Emancipation. Geothermal energy comes from our sub-surface hot rock and is a renewable resource. Thus, it falls within that renewable energy category.

On the issue of Geothermal development we have proposed a Government Linked Company for many years, where the government gets 70% of the profits and Dominicans 30%.

The model was the same public sector/private sector partnership as in the original National Commercial Bank which is one of Labour's best success stories.

All during this process the Prime Minister has been aware of our position in the national interest and agreed in principle and encouraged what is an effort at avoiding the sort of WRB strangle hold on our energy grid.

To that end, over time, we brought government ministers to the Geothermal plant in Guadeloupe. Mr. Douglas was the leader in forging the links with the French Departments.

The project engineer at the Guadeloupe geothermal plants, Mr. Claude Barnnwarth agreed to work with us, as a people and government, to run our plant as a consultant until our local competence was trained ready to take over.

He also agreed to teach our people the power plant management skills. So we have had a long partnership with those closest to Dominica who have development and managed geothermal development plants in excess of ten (10) megawatts.

This is well known to the Prime Minister as we have consistently communicated our plans and capabilities to him, as part of our Dominica centered development cause.

Indeed, Ministers Skerrit and Vince Henderson attended the 2001 Dominicans in the Development Process Symposium in Brooklyn New York and encouraged such partnership for development as we proposed in renewable energy.

We always believed that we had his support of a local initiative at sustainable development.

At all times, this has been an effort at local control of our natural resources, employment of our people, infusion of much needed income into government's coffers so we do not have to suffer from the punishing taxes such as VAT.

With more revenue - such as that from geothermal development owned by an entity where government and the national interest are at the fore, we would have a more competitive and stable economy.

Despite years of trying however, the government had not moved. However, it was our hope that such a "Dominica First" option with government and private partnership would have taken place this year - the year of our celebration of 30 years of independence -especially where we are now subject to crushing fossil fuel price hikes; something outside our control.

Had government taken that national option and given a license to CEC, or its predecessor organization DSEC, we would have had a geothermal plant installed on Dominica by now. Instead there was delay.

All the while since 2001 - as an organization, and via our predecessor organizations, affiliates and partners, we have steadily worked and spent some 3.8 million EC dollars on:

1. Wind turbines
2. Wind studies
3. Consultancies
4. Solar oven technology
5. Solar Project at Layou - dedicated last Saturday - July 27, 2008.

We were working hand in hand with government on a matter of national importance and believed we had the confidence of our government at all times that we would put Dominica and Dominicans first where it concerns the use, development and control of our vital natural resources.

UN Ambassador. Crispin Gregoire just returned from Iceland in June 2008 and had secured the full support of that government (the most advanced country in geothermal development which has kept its resource under its control) for our country's efforts.

There has been agreement in principle by the government of Venezuela to assist us in controlling that resource by our government and people. The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) as a concept seeks the independence of our peoples and we support that. Venezuela is our biggest donor at this time.

How could we be benefiting from Venezuela's ownership of its natural resources, yet give up control of our own?

There is no need then, in our view, to bargain away portions of that resource to companies such as West Indies Power. We demand a National Geothermal Company owned primarily by Dominicans and the Government of Dominica for the benefit - primarily of our people.

That has not been done here. What we are advised is that an operation involving the Chairman of our national bank and some Russian interests led by one Dimitri of a group called West Indies Power.

We were never advised our bid was non-conforming or that we lacked funds or capacity: excuses we now hear of. There has never been a formal response to our many proposals - not even the courtesy of a rejection letter!

All we heard on the news was that a contract was signed which - up till this moment - has not been disclosed to the Dominican people who have suffered so much ruin at the hand of anti-national interest who once exploited our limes, sugar cane, cocoa, vanilla and bananas with little in country development to show for it.

We have struggled against colonialism and neo-colonialism all our lives and placed Dominica first in all we do. We will not backslide now and be silent simply because a government which has had our unmitigated support is in power. We support our country over any party or personal interest.

So here we are. While the people are being distracted by a Reunion, focused on idle feting instead of substantive focus on development and development projects, we suddenly hear of a license to another foreign concern.

Suddenly and without notice, or discussion of any national geothermal policy or plan and what it portends for our future development, West Indies Power was granted a license.

There was no transparency here and no discussion with those of us at home and in the Diaspora who have always championed Dominica first and who have been the leaders in the renewable energy campaign from the outset.

No other group of persons have done more for the development of renewable energy projects, education of our government and people on renewable energy than we have.

Even the 2007 budget outline on renewable energy had our input - based on the Prime Ministers request.

Now we have this behind the scenes deal where Dominica and Dominicans are made to play second fiddle to a company chaired by the general manager of our own national bank - something which reeks of conflict of interest.

We ask that the contract be made public. Again, we ask that the contract be disclosed.

Again, we will not be party to a trend which marginalizes Dominicans where it concerns the exploitation of natural resources to the disservice of the country.

The government leadership may be deaf to the outcry over the dominance of our quarries by foreign interest in exchange for a pittance.

The overwhelming majority of Dominicans are upset over such management of quarrying but many remain silent for fear of victimization.

Now that we have spoken some of our own brothers try to doubt our sincere desire to build a better Dominica and dare to claim we are self serving or are not capable.

If we never trust our own, how shall we build? And if we do not own and maximize for ourselves what is ours, then Emancipation Day is a hoax and we are perpetrating a fraud on our people by celebrating it.

We have asked for the following: 1. Disclosure of the contract terms for what is a matter of public interest and a national resource;
2. Rescinding of the contract;
3. A Dominica centered renewable energy policy and regulatory scheme to ensure that ownership of the resource remains predominantly in local/government hands and that the greater part of revenues accrue to the national government not some narrow private interest, group or clique.

These demands must be addressed and as we do not desire that such neo-colonial deals be extended to geothermal exploitation.

This has never been a personal, partisan, or some money grubbing position. We have always advocated a solution in line with our historic commitment to independence and a development policy which puts Dominica first.

We care not that a red cent goes into our pockets; but we must ensure the nation survives. It cannot survive on the current development course and is headed toward failed state status, where we do not arrest this backward trend.

At our 30th anniversary of independence of Dominica we deserve better; we state loudly and firmly - as we warned before - no sell out will be acceptable here.

Dominica is not the province of some government or minister to be bartered away in some whimsical or niggardly manner. May the government and our people be always guided by our unwavering principle: That the natural resources of Dominica be owned and utilized for the benefit of our people first, before all else, at all times.