National energy policy hits a nerve in the Netherlands

POSTED: 09/11/14 7:17 AM

St. Maarten – The article this newspaper published last Saturday about St. Maarten’s national energy policy has triggered questions in the Dutch Parliament from VVD-MP André Bosman and PvdA-MP Roelof van Laar. Articles about the energy policy also appeared on the Dutch-language website Caribisch Netwerk. A letter from Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk about the study into geothermal energy production in Saba also plays a role in the questions. Bosman and Van Laar see St. Maarten’s energy policy as an example Caribbean Netherlands – Saba, Statia and Bonaire – ought to follow.

Van Laar and Bosman ask Minister Plasterk and his colleague of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp whether they are familiar with the media report (on Caribisch Netwerk) headlined ‘St. Maarten publishes ambitious energy policy,’ and the report ‘Delay for thermal energy in Saba’ in Amigoe.

Plasterk wrote in a letter to the Second Chamber about the inter-parliamentary kingdom consultation (Ipko) that research into the potential of geothermal energy in Saba has no priority for the time being for Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp.

“The energy company in Saba is currently losing €1.5 million a year because the energy has to be produced with expensive diesel. That situation can be terminated fast by investing in options that bring results fast, like solar and wind energy,” Plasterk wrote.

Kamp has promised subsidies for covering the operational losses and for investment in sustainable energy. This could make the utilities company in Saba profitable by 2016, according to Kamp.

“The development of geothermal energy will take much longer and mainly benefit Sint Maarten,” Plasterk’s letter states. St. Maarten would have to invest $25 million in a submarine cable to benefit from Saba’s geothermal energy.

A focus on geothermal energy would mean that the utilities company in Saba would have to operate at a loss for a much longer time – and there is no coverage for such losses, the letter states.

“When everything is in order in Saba by 2016, the minister is prepared to examine together with St. Maarten whether and in which way it is possible to research the potential of geothermal energy in Saba.”

Van Laar and Bosman ask both ministers whether they agree “that investing in sustainable energy in the Caribbean – also because of the high energy prices – is of great importance and that sustainable energy could lead in the long run to more prosperity (lower energy prices, revenue from export) and a sustainable economy.”

The two MPs ask which actions the ministers want to undertake in this field. They furthermore want to know whether the local government in Saba and the governments on the surrounding islands have been consulted about the decision to pass on geothermal energy. Van Laar and Bosman want to know what the opinion is on the islands about the minister’s decision. In case these consultations have not taken place, the MPs ask whether the ministers are prepared to do this yet.

Furthermore, Van Laar and Bosman have picked up on St. Maarten’s national energy policy. “Are you aware of the ambitious green energy-strategy of St. Maarten?” they ask both ministers. “Do you agree that it is about time for the government – together with local governments – to display a similar ambition in the field of sustainable energy for Caribbean Netherlands?”

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