Assistant Interior Secretary Tony Babauta said Monday the Office of Insular Affairs wants to see an “expedited and quicker” efforts from the Commonwealth in pursuing geothermal energy as a form of alternative energy source for the islands.
Babauta said he wants to see this happen for the CNMI before he ends his term in office at OIA.
“I would like to see more progress on renewable energy efforts specifically on the geothermal energy because it was one of those sources identified in the partnership we developed with NREL. I would like to see that [effort] expedite, quicker than it has been,” he told Saipan Tribune.
A few months ago, the Fitial administration cancelled the request for proposal for the geothermal energy project, saying a geothermal power plant will not serve the best interest of the Commonwealth for now. It earlier said the government can put out a request for proposal only to drill and explore the island for geothermal potential but not to generate geothermal power right away.
Because of this, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. cancelled its geothermal gradient well project with the Australian company, KUTh Energy Ltd. The cancellation is also believed to be tied to the $190.8-million power deal inked with Saipan Development LLC.
The U.S. Department of the Interior had given the CNMI $1.2 million for geothermal exploration and development. CUC then selected KUTh Energy to drill a 600-meter deep geothermal gradient well.
When asked if OIA is still willing to provide more assistance for the same geothermal project, Babauta said: “My office is eager to see that the money that we've provided really accomplish what it needs to accomplish as soon as possible so we can have a better measure,” said Babauta.
Meantime, Babauta said that OIA is also “watching” the $190.8-million PPA, which is now pending in court.
“We're watching it.but we're mindful of the fact that the court has issued TRO on that particular PPA,” he added.