Environmental charity questions wave power deal

Created: Dec 17, 2021 07:44 AM

Questions raised: technology used by Seabased (Photograph supplied)

Green campaigners have hit out at a “conflict of interest” over a controversial Government deal with an energy firm to bring tidal power to Bermuda.

The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce said the contract with Seabased to develop a wave energy farm off St George’s raised several questions.

BEST highlighted that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project would be carried out by Seabased.

A BEST spokeswoman said: “We see this as an obvious conflict of interest and would expect that, for an EIA to be truly objective, it would need to be conducted in close consultation with an independent entity without the vested interest in seeing the project go ahead.

“This would include continuous monitoring at regular intervals during the project.”

Ministers earlier defended the Government’s relationship with Seabased, whose headquarters are in Ireland, after the One Bermuda Alliance said it was “odd” that only one firm had been in the running.

BEST also demanded answers from the Government in a range of other areas.

The spokeswoman asked: “If the pilot project is successful, will the area need to be enlarged to be commercialised and what dredging will be required for undersea transmission lines to the mainland, as well as development of any onshore power storage/transmission facility?”

BEST said it also had fears over the safety of the tidal power set-up in hurricanes.

The group asked: “What contingency plans are in place if the units break free of their tethers in hurricanes?

“What is the threshold of negative environmental impact, if any, beyond which we have the right to withdraw from any long-term development commitment?”

An artist’s impression of underwater operations by wave power firm Seabased (Image supplied)

BEST said the island needed to be careful about becoming a “testing ground” for new technologies that may affect the marine environment.

The organisation added: “We must ensure there are no unintended consequences of such projects that may mean material harm to our delicate natural environment.

“The wave energy technology is still largely in its infancy and has been adopted by only a limited number of jurisdictions outside of Bermuda.”

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, has defended the Government’s tie-up with Seabased.

Mr Roban said: “Seabased’s proposal is very much in line with the need to reduce energy costs.”

Mr Roban added a memorandum of understanding with the company had been agreed to cover the time until “sandbox regulations” – a light touch regulatory framework designed to encourage innovation – was established next year.

Mr Roban said: “The Seabased memorandum of understanding ensures the company understands and agrees to abide by the steps involved.

“It does not give prospective developers the freedom to act as they choose.”

The Opposition One Bermuda Alliance said it would ask questions in the House of Assembly about the hook-up with Seabased.

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