Instead of scaring people, the energy released by weaknesses hidden deep in the ground beneath our feet could soon help to jump-start cars, power lamps and fuel machinery.
This is especially true on the small islands of the Caribbean where, in addition to paradisiacal beaches, they may also be sat on an underground source of energy which could prove to be an answer to the expensive and unsustainable consumption of fossil fuels.
Seven Eastern Caribbean countries have a huge potential for geothermal energy generation, according to a study by the World Bank. On the island of Guadeloupe, for example, the La Bouillante power station is already generating 15MW by means of geothermal energy.
Resources in this region remain unexplored, but experts suggest that the exploitable commercial potential could reach a combined total of 850MW. Although estimates vary considerably.
Once developed, this energy could really offer the islands an alternative energy source, one which is clean, economical and less vulnerable to external elements like climate change. What’s more, it could offer a reliable energy supply at stable prices – a highly sought after advantage for Caribbean businesses, who bear the burden of the large, monthly fluctuations in their electricity bills.
At the mercy of oil
Today, electrification goes hand in hand with development, but in many parts of the Caribbean and Central America, this access to this basic service is becoming increasingly costly due to their dependence on oil.
And while countries like Brazil and Mexico enjoy large and diverse renewable energy sources to satisfy their electricity needs alongside oil, the small countries in the Eastern Caribbean are increasingly at the mercy of the unpredictable oil market.
“The first challenge for the OECS countries is their high dependence on oil to generate electricity,. In some countries between 60 and 100% of the supply comes from oil.,” explains Migara Jayawardena, Senior Infrastructure Specialist for the World Bank. “Available renewables such as solar and wind are intermittent and therefore not a good substitute for 24/7 base load power,” he added.
On average, island states like those in the Eastern Caribbean collectively spend over US$67 million a day on oil to supply all their energy needs. But with prices in constant flux, any increase is passed on to the customer, raising the price of an already expensive utilities, eating into businesses’ bottom line and reducing quality of life for Caribbeans.
The result: some of the highest electricity prices in the world and economy which is losing competitivity.