The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. will soon start the ball rolling on the much-awaited renewable energy plan for the CNMI.
CUC executive director Alan Fletcher disclosed yesterday that the agency is poised to issue two requests for proposals, or RFPs, to help the islands move toward renewable energy. These two proposals are for geothermal exploration and for the integrated resource planning, which will focus on developing new energy sources for the Commonwealth.
These comes after the recent release of the results of the “Renewable Energy Integration Study,” which identified the type of alternative energy sources that can be reliably integrated into the Saipan electrical grid.
Fletcher said that looking for new energy sources and developing a plan that would be supported by stakeholders is the next step.
He said the geothermal project and the integrated resource plan and energy supply analysis will be funded by grants CUC received from the Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs.
“Available information suggests that the geothermal gradient beneath Saipan may be sufficiently steep to provide geothermal energy to generate electricity. To address this potential, CUC is soliciting proposals from qualified firms to collect and evaluate scientific data to better determine the potential for development of geothermal energy on Saipan,” according to Fletcher.
He said the technical complexity of this project and the need to collect and evaluate extensive data will require the successful proposer to provide expertise in various professional disciplines, conduct exploratory drilling, and provide equipment and materials necessary to complete the work.
The “Integrated Resource Plan” or IRP will help to create a “roadmap” for developing new energy supplies in CNMI. Generally, Fletcher said, the IRP will develop strategies of how the CNMI can reduce fossil fuel dependency, while providing reliable generation and distribution at the least cost possible for consumers.
“Developing new power generation sources is a major undertaking and can take many years to implement. Due to the immense cost of new energy sources and long-term rate implications to consumers, exceptional care must be taken in identifying new energy sources. Equally important, is to stop the ‘crisis management’ of energy supplies by having one predictable strategy to pursue,” he said.
The first task of the IRP is to set up an independent third-party technical review, selection, and advisory process for soliciting a new energy source.
“As many are aware, the CNMI is approached numerous times each year by sales teams claiming to have developed the ultimate energy solution for the CNMI. While many of these solutions appear feasible, the utility remains committed to ensuring that the people of the CNMI do not invest in a system that fails to deliver reliable power or ends up costing more than promised. Using independent third-party technical and economic expertise to advise the community in selecting a new energy source is thought to be the most efficient way to ensure a fair, open, and competitive procurement as well as gain acceptance by consumers, business community, and government stakeholders,” he said.