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APETT LECTURES FOCUS ON RENEWABLE ENERGY

What alternative energy options are available to Trinidad and Tobago as we face depleting reserves of oil and gas? How can engineers improve the country’s state of preparedness for natural disasters? These were the central themes respectively for the recent two lectures in the “APETT Presidential Lecture Series,” as the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad and Tobago continued on its public education campaign to mark its 50th Anniversary, following the very successful first lecture on “Ethics in Engineering.” Energy is the power for development, and in the context of ensuring the continued development of Trinidad and Tobago, Eng Prof Chandrabhan Sharma, APETT past president 2004-2005, gave a comprehensive review of the available renewable energy options at the second APETT presidential lecture to the wide audience of engineers, environmentalists, and interested persons from the public. While the call for greater use of renewables is very popular now, he alerted all present to the commercial and legal requirements necessary for the establishment of a national sustainable renewable energy programme. “Without subsidies to cover the high initial capital investment, and legal revisions to allow electricity from renewable energy to be connected to grid,” Sharma said. “Renewable energy as a viable alternative would be a non-starter, especially in small island states”. He emphasised that, for any renewable energy option to be commercially viable, the required enabling environment must be established as a priority. He concluded that, at this time, only wind energy was close to commercial feasibility in Trinidad and Tobago. APETT president Eng Hannah Wei-Muddeen offered that APETT was willing to work with key stakeholders towards the establishment of a national sustainable renewable energy programme. Following from the high interest in the engineering topics discussed, the association held its third APETT presidential lecture on July 23 2009, on the topical subject of Disaster Preparedness. APETT past president 1985-1986, Eng Prof Winston Suite submitted: “The perennial flooding in Port-of-Spain and parts of central Trinidad and the threat of houses falling into rivers coupled with calls for Government to compensate victims are an annual occurrence in the rainy season and this provided an indication of Trinidad and Tobago’s true state of preparedness for natural disasters”. He identified examples of inherent weaknesses referring to them as the ‘Achilles Heel’ in our cultural choices and building practices that predispose structures to destruction in times of natural disasters. He emphasised the need for proper physical planning, as well as compulsory Building Codes, Health and Safety Codes, and registration of engineers in the construction and related sectors so as to minimise the risk from natural disasters. “In the way forward, engineers are only part of the wider process, and greater collaboration is needed among bodies at all levels – householders, private companies, communities organisations, statutory authorities, Regional Corporations, Government, and professional associations such as APETT, if we are to safeguard Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and our other Caribbean neighbours,” he concluded.

Michelle Felix



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