Monday, July 23, 2012

IRENA Renewable Readiness Assessment

I am posting this 'on the fly' before heading out to the second day of meetings with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). They are here conducting a consultation with local experts and key stakeholders (as I do not consider myself an energy expert!) to develop a renewable readiness assessment for Grenada. A local consultant has been hired to do the job, and between his effort and the representatives of IRENA that have travelled to Grenada for this consultation, I must report that I'm not only impressed by their work - I am delighted that such an important fledgling organization is getting off to such a great start!

Here's why:

Anyone that has worked in development or government or civil society can tell you that since "stakeholder consultation" became the popular thing to do, it wouldn't be hard to spend an entire career in meetings! Most of the time the results are limited to generating a report that ends up in a filing cabinet, or in some cases it will actually inform policy development (but that's rare).

The IRENA consultations are different however - they have already captured 'Action Items' that if acted upon will yeild measurable, immediate, tangible, and greatly needed results. I don't want to steal IRENA's thunder by publishing what we've come up with so far, but I am 100% certain that when the Renewable Readiness Assessment is released - it will be worth reading.

The project I am developing for the GHTA has already been reshaped by the collective wisdom of the people in the room - and a moment of inspiration on behalf of the Non-State Actors panel has also been chewed on by participants and may well become a project I can develop for them.

More to come!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Things are beginning to move in an encouraging direction. Contact has been made with some really big Foundations and international financial institutions who are interested in the direction we are heading in. So far, what I am finding most fascinating is how for the second time (the last time being my work facilitating the creation of the Four Seasons Resort Eco-Resort plan in Grenada) I am seeing how important it is to have someone playing the role I am playing now to bring the technocrats together with the business minds and the people decisions affect.

What it boils down to is (needing) a relatively neutral third party who works with all the stakeholders guided by a very simple mandate:


It takes a lot of listening, and a very interdisciplinary intellectual foundation to be able to hear widely varied viewpoints (technical, emotional, financial) and find the win-zone among them. I have not spent enough time thinking about my role in all of this to the point where I've developed a label for it. Maybe some of my readers have some thoughts about it?


I met with the local utility (and parent company) executives this week and began negotiating our renewable energy plans with them directly. The meetings revealed a few things:

1. There are an enormous amount of technical considerations that have to be worked into the project design not to mention negotiating agreement upon. This is going to slow down the grant procurement process for renewables a bit - but not terminally so.
2. We're at the mercy of Grenlec because of the monopoly law, and their investments in renewable energy are going to deepen that monopoly. They provide good service and they are committed to a 100% renewable future for Grenada - that's not the problem. The problem is how difficult it is to negotiate with a party that really holds all the power. We didn't get anywhere on negotiating better prices but we did open discussion about a 1.5-2 MW solar/wind farm. We want to own the solars, but they want to give us a 5 year term for it, after which they would own the solars. On matters like that - what choice do we have without legislated change?
3. The company refreshingly interested in renewable energy - and that's a good thing.
4. I will need to develop the energy audit and retrofit project component as soon as possible because the energy generation component is going to take awhile.

There was also some discussion about the utility's investment in geothermal energy.

Ohhhh my wheels are spinning with ideas!

Since our meeting I have been formulating ideas about setting up a community fund that could invest in the geothermal plant so that revenues stemming from it could be invested back into the country's development. GRENLEC would rather pay back into the community than to a bank or global investor - and we'd naturally prefer it too! The thought really excites me.

What if I could raise the money locally and have those community partners invest in the drilling exploration for the geothermal plant? It comes with risks, but the technocrats I have spoken to seem to be very confident about it, citing the presence of our volcano's Kick 'em Jenny and Kick 'em Jack and the similar geological features in Dominica have yielded good results (GRENELC is also in this country).

As business models go - many governments around the world privatized their utilities and by doing so it may have improved on the core efficiencies of the companies, but it disconnected the end-user from the benefits derived from the utilities profits. What if that bridge could be crossed again so that the venture capital used to develop a new (renewable) energy resource didn't come from the global marketplace (there-by exposing Grenada to capital flight later on) but from local sources instead? It would be so much better for all involved......

Grenada is also a country that has oil - could we make a case to one of the climate change funding mechanisms to pay Grenada to leave the oil the ground where it belongs if we successfully develop geothermal energy???? THAT would be revolutionary! I know pundits would cringe at the thought of giving up a license to print money......but it brings me to an old Cree proverb...

"After the last tree has been cut and the last fish has been caught - only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten".

But then as life always finds ways to twist the best common sense into something more complicated I realize that while I possess this kind of thinking on the one hand I also realize that I can do this - I can find ways to make this happen (or a version of it anyway) but I need more financial resources to back up my we're back to money again! **sigh**

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Big Reveal: Zero Carbon Hotel Project

The project has been designed, Members have been consulted and have given their approval, and it is now ready to reveal! The project outline looks really simple, but it actually responds to many competing needs and a very complicated local environment. Ultimately after consulting with stakeholders and researching the issues, it became clear that the only way Zero Carbon Hotel project would get off the ground was if it was designed as a "win-win" for all stakeholders involved. It didnt make any sense to design something that would result in financial losses for the local utility (we're held in a monopoly law). It made sense to align the project with the governments renewable ambitions, and to ensure that whatever was designed provided the greatly needed financial relief required by the hotel sector at this time. Since Grenada would be remiss to stop its green development at the zero carbon goal, the project has also been designed to expand the scope of sustainability through education and further project development/grants.

One thing that is quite unique to this project is that it is not just a renewable energy project - is an economic recovery plan. Eliminating the electricity bill for hotels will mean the difference between open and closed for many of them - and that means jobs and local spending that supports a staggering economy.

Sustainability is not just about environmental survival - in our case, it is our economic survival too.

The outline of the project I've concieved is as follows:

Grenada's Zero Carbon Hotel Project

Component One:

- Conduct detailed energy audits on properties. These audits will provide detailed information on where energy is used, where core inefficiencies are, as well as recommending changes to be made and the time it would take for those changes to pay for themselves in cost savings.
- Implement Retrofits. This would involve making the recommended changes outlined in the energy audits. It is expected that this will reduce electricity consumption by as much as 50%. Retrofits can be implemented through purchasing and/or project agreements with bilaterial supporters/corporate sponsors.
- Environmental education for property owners/managers to prepare for sustainability upgrades and to ensure Grenada meets marketplace demands for a 'Green' destination.

Component Two:

- Procure high density solar PV panels (enough to generate significant surplus)
- Install on government land donated/leased by the Government.
- Arrange maintenance agreement with local utility
- first draw of renewable energy produced goes to Hotels

Component Three:

- Portion of surplus given to local utility to mitigate losses arising from net-metering arrangement
- portion of surplus sold to local utility and re-invested in further 'greening' activities as a tourist destination and marketing of the sector
- Case study development

This basic outline has been shared locally with the Members of the Hotel and Tourism Association, the Government and the Opposition (it's an election year in Grenada).

Now all we have to do is come to an agreement with the local utility to raise money for this project and to implement it - since component One is the only element of the project that can be implemented without permission from the local utility and possibly even some special amendments to the law.

The trisk is - is offering free surplus energy enough of an incentive for the local utility to support this project? So far, negotiations have been luke-warm, and the head of the company in Miami is meeting with us on Wednesday this week.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Quiet = Busy

It's been about two weeks since my last post. However, while it may appear quiet on the internet - it's been busy on the outernet! The economic crisis is hitting the hotels hard, and this energy campaign is becoming more and more - a campaign for survival. We are among the top ten most unfortunate nations paying the highest electricity rates in the world and that's hard to keep up when flights are cutting back, occupancy rates are low and interest rates are high. There's been a flurry of meetings with the Government and external stakeholders as the GHTA negotiates a roadmap for the future.

Meanwhile, the individual stakeholder meetings continue. I am in the midst of back-to-back meetings with the individual member hotels in the GHTA to discuss our project plans. The importance of doing this is because effective project design requires complete stakeholder buy-in. To prepare a proposal I need to know how much energy we use, how invested the Members really are, whether they are willing (or able) to put up a share of the cost themselves, and whether they would be open to some intrusive, but extremely valuable project activities such as energy audits.

So far, I haven't encountered an ounce of hesitation.