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A Caribbean electricity grid, how possible is it?

Nov 20 , 2007 - The Barbardos Advocate

With the rising cost of electricity associated with the increasing cost of traditional fuels, such as oil, one businessman possesses the vision of a multi-source electricity grid that encompasses the entire region.

Dave Hardy of Hardy Stevenson Associates, and Vice-President of the Trinidadian Enman Group, the company behind the push to develop hydro-power generation in Guyana, is of the view that such a grid can be created connecting Guyana with Trinidad and Tobago, going north to Puerto Rico and all points in between, even linking across to Mexico and Central America as well.

In an interview published by the Energy Caribbean, he argued that the attraction of a grid is that it functions as an integrating mechanism for both current petroleum-based power generation and future energy resources, such as Guyanas rivers.

When you have a grid, you can put anything on it. You can also switch between various systems depending on the price of the fuel. Effectively, a grid diversifies the supply sources. Such a system is considered to be good news for those Caribbean states already experimenting with renewable sources, such as the wind power project at Wigton in Jamaica, as well as the one being developed in Barbados.

There is also the use of co-generation in the sugar industry across the region, where enough bagasse is still available, thermal power from places like St. Lucia, and the possibility of hydro-power contribution from Dominica . To accomplish this, Hardy admits that everybody will now have to rethink the organisation of current utility systems. A pan-Caribbean grid would require a central system operator to understand what is currently in the grid, what is online, and keep account of who is buying what and where. Rights to connect to the grid and a trading system would have to be set up.

This clearly has implications for the current management structures that exist in the various territories, and would require a relinquishing of some level of individual control. Such a situation can be likened to that of the development of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), where the relinquishing of individual power has been seen traditionally as a touchy issue. The possibilities are there, but it is clear that a number of logistics need to be further explored and worked out if any progress is to be made. (RH)