Saturday, June 20, 2009


I was having a drink and a chat with a friend recently. We got to speaking about business and the subject eventually turned to energy in the Caribbean. Our discussion was interesting and wide-ranging (and, appropriately, fueled by ethanol in various concentrations).

I was taken aback when I realised that his opinion of
geothermal energy in the Caribbean was that it was some sort of little pilot-project-type thing; essentially experimental in nature, and not to be taken seriously by serious people. At one point, he even used the phrase "fly-by-night".

He himself is a successful businessman and entrepreneur and, more to the point, was quite recently on the board of directors of one of our Caribbean electric utilities. I tried to convince him that he was wrong, but perhaps our consumption of biofuels had by then affected the cogency of my arguments, and I failed.

Thinking the episode over the following day, I realised I should not really have been surprised. After all, before I started focusing specifically on Caribbean renewable energy and sustainability issues a few years ago, I didn't know what the real situation was either.

During our discussion I had pointed out to him that
Nevis is now on track to become the Caribbean's first green island, powered by geothermal energy. He was skeptical. One of his arguments was that he had never heard of Nevis as having any sort of geothermal potential.

Well, until just over a year ago, neither did I.

But never mind the inherent egocentricity of this argument (which I also failed to point out to him at the time, no doubt due to my biofuel-enhanced state), the discussion highlights a particular problem that is affecting the Caribbean, which is: that the state of information on Caribbean energy prospects and options - matters of critical national and regional importance - is abysmal.

Any discussion of issues that have the potential to impact the collective futures of nations requires an informed public. How do we make sound decisions about vital matters if we are not informed? Do we leave these decisions to our business and political leaders? Are they themselves sufficiently informed? Some of the evidence suggests not.

It’s clear to me that there's a long road ahead on this. Far more needs to be done by the various actors and leaders in this space. Paradoxically in this so-called information age, we are falling short in informing our public on energy issues.