Buncamper questions GEBE green energy plan 

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Caption: Claudius Buncamper

 

Deputy Leader of the Nation, Opportunity, Wealth (NOW) party former Member of Parliament Claudius Buncamper has expressed serious concerns about the government’s approach to solving the ongoing load-shedding issue managed by GEBE, the island’s primary electricity provider.  He said the Parliamentary meeting held on June 25th intended to clarify the government’s plan, instead unveiled a series of alarming revelations and uncertainties.

The session saw coalition partners voicing little confidence in the proposed solutions, culminating in a faction walking out. The Prime Minister’s presentation of immediate, short-term, and long-term solutions did little to assuage fears. Buncamper highlighted that all proposed phases rely heavily on fossil fuels, with no substantial move towards renewable energy.

To address the immediate shortage of 15MW, the government plans to rent 10MW of container generators from a Miami-based company for three months at a cost of US$1.942 million, excluding diesel fuel. Additionally, large consumers are being asked to use personal generators, freeing up 4MW for general consumption. Engine #8 is expected to be operational by July 15th, adding 3MW back to the grid.

However, Buncamper raised critical questions: “How much will the diesel required to fuel these generators cost? How will consumer bills be affected? Is the fuel clause expected to increase and be passed on to consumers?” The answers remain unclear, adding to public uncertainty,” he said.

For the short-term, the government intends to purchase 20MW of diesel-fueled generators under a three-year lease-to-own agreement, costing $7.723 million. These generators, with a 20-30 year lifespan, will lock Sint Maarten into continued fossil fuel dependency. Buncamper emphasized the inadequacy of the warranty, which expires after just 42 days if the generators run continuously.

The long-term plan involves purchasing three new 9MW fuel-powered engines at an estimated cost of $42 million, with financing yet to be determined. Despite the Dutch government’s offer of US$60 million for renewable energy investments, the government chose a path of greater expense and environmental impact.

Buncamper criticized the government’s disregard for green energy: “The TNO report highlights the urgent need for Sint Maarten to adopt renewable energy, yet no concrete plans are in place.” He also questioned the government’s commitment to green energy, citing the European Commission’s warning about fuel distributors holding the country hostage until 2027.

He said the Prime Minister’s mention of the Grid Market Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has stirred further controversy. “This agreement, signed by the previous Prime Minister in 2021, grants an American company exclusive rights to facilitate Sint Maarten’s transition to green energy. However, there is a lack of transparency regarding the MOU’s contents, raising concerns about its legality and potential conflicts with GEBE’s concession obligations,” he said.

Buncamper noted the absence of public discussion prior to the MOU’s signing and the potential negative impact based on similar agreements in other regions. “If the Grid Market MOU plays out anything like it did in Samoa, it will not be in Sint Maarten’s best interest,” he warned.

“The decision to invest heavily in fossil fuel engines while neglecting immediate renewable energy solutions has sparked widespread criticism and rightfully so.  Telling the population that we will explore green energy possibilities only after committing to a new fuel deal is incomprehensible. This agenda effectively blocks the energy transition to renewable sources,” Buncamper concluded.