IF all goes to plan, Fiji could be making headway in geothermal exploration within the coming weeks with a project estimated to cost over $80million.
The explorations are planned by local company Geothermal Electric Limited which is seeking to conduct exploratory drilling in Savusavu in the hope of unearthing a viable geothermal resource.
This comes two weeks after World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati announced an initiative to better manage and reduce the risks of exploratory drilling and bring geothermal power into the mainstream.
"Geothermal energy could be a triple win for developing countries: clean, reliable and locally-produced power. And once it is up and running, it is cheap and virtually endless," Mr Indrawati said in his announcement.
Geothermal Electric Limited is presently awaiting paperwork from the Department of Mineral Resources to come through.
Questions sent to the Department of Mineral Resources last Tuesday remained unanswered when this edition went to press last night.
But company chief executive officer Timothy Daniel said Fiji had much to gain by accessing a renewable energy resource like geothermal energy.
"We have had much dialogue with the World Bank and pointed out the importance of this source of power for nations such as Fiji," Mr Daniel said.
"I am sure we are not alone but it is gratifying to see the World Bank coming to realise the importance of geothermal as a source of long-term, low cost, renewable energy," he said.
And while he agreed with Mr Indrawati's statement of geothermal as a triple win, he revealed it was also a risky undertaking.
"A single exploration drill hole costs almost $18million to drill. The higher the cost of exploration, the bigger the power plant must be to pay back that cost," he said.
"If there is no demand, then there is no commercial reason to drill. So driving down the costs and the risks of this exploration drilling is crucial."
However, Mr Daniel remained adamant that geothermal energy was a viable alternative for Fiji.
"Geothermal Electric Limited already has access to more than 50 years geothermal drilling experience and all the equipment to do the job right here in Fiji."
"And our experts are prepared to take on the commercial risk themselves so the upfront costs are kept low. With our approach, geothermal is viable in Vanua Levu and other locations in Fiji," Mr Daniel said.