The agreement to involve the Dutch Government with geothermal research in the Windward Islands (see Saturday paper) is one of the positive points to come out of last week’s Inter-Parliamentary Consultation Kingdom IPOK. St. Eustatius and Saba as special overseas public entities of the Netherlands probably would be able to count on such support anyway, but for St. Maarten it might help open the door to using more “green” electricity from sustainable sources in the future. The latter is important to reduce pollution, but also to make the Dutch side less reliant on fossil fuels that it must import from abroad, with all possible risks in the event of a prolonged weatherrelated or other issue affecting shipments.
The wheel does not have to be re-invented in this sense either, because in nearby Nevis considerable headway already has been made with the related technology. As roughly the same volcanic energy pre-conditions exist on Saba and Statia, notes can thus be compared easily. In addition to investments in solar panels, wind turbines and – hopefully soon – a waste-to-energy plant on St Maarten , having a geothermal alternative at reasonable prices would seem an attractive prospect also for government-owned utility company GEBE.
If the study by Dutch Technical Research Centre TNO shows operation is economically feasible, the step now taken may well be what ensures St. Maarten is not left out. Together with the pledge to seek joint solutions for the huge studyloan debts incurred by students from the Caribbean islands in the Netherlands and possibly allowing them to continue their education with Dutch financing in the region instead, the agreement regarding geothermal energy is one of the tangible results of IPOK, although in both cases the proof of the pudding obviously will be in the eating. Nevertheless, despite all the controversy regarding the presence of independent parliamentarian and corruption suspect Patrick Illidge, St. Maarten’s delegation deserves credit for these achievements.