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Clean Tech Can Help Solve Income Inequality in Trinidad and Tobago

Germany now has more solar workers than America has steel workers. Unlike the old industries, the jobs created in clean tech are diverse rather than being housed under a few big companies. The jobs types range from working on a solar panel assembly line in a factory to independent installers and product resellers. These jobs created are known as “green collar jobs”. This article reveals how these green collar jobs can solve income inequality in Trinidad and Tobago.

Let’s look at Trinidad’s current dominant model for generating wealth, the oil and gas industry. Trinidad and Tobago’s sea acreage is divided into blocks that are awarded to the winners of a bid round put forward by the Government. These are often international oil and gas companies. These companies develop these blocks to produce natural gas using a host of very expensive equipment such as seismic vessels, drilling rigs, offshore platforms and pipeline networks. The extracted gas is sent to facilities located on land that liquefies the gas, which can then be put in tankers to be shipped to overseas markets. The ownership of the plant is a consortium of companies (BPTT, BGTT, Repsol, NGC and Summer Soca LNG Liquefaction Limited) of which one is a local state agency. None of the producers of the natural gas that are sent to the Atlantic LNG plant are local. Finally the Government gets a % of revenue generated from the sale of the gas. This model does not allow for an efficient and even distribution of wealth as a few players control the wealth. Despite the fact that natural gas is responsible of 80 % of our exports, it only generates 5% of our jobs (Wikipedia, 2012(a)). The oil and gas sector does not generate many direct jobs. In this model it really leaves it up to the government to facilitate redistribution of wealth. With many developing country governments there are significant inefficiencies in the process of getting the wealth to the people in some tangible form.

So why is income inequality an important measure. Studies have shown that the higher the income inequality in a country the higher the levels of obesity, mental illness, violence will exist (Wilkinson, 2011). Also higher income inequality means lower social mobility. Social mobility means the ease of ability for the son of a poor father to become rich. High-income inequality would mean a son of a poor father most likely would remain poor. Trust within a country also drops with higher income inequality and the overall psychosocial state is adversely affected. Psychosocial is a term used to describe the feeling of status insecurity, self-esteem, superiority or inferiority. Income inequality heavily affects the poor at the bottom but it also affects the lives of the rich negatively as well.

For further information, please refer to this video:

T&T’s level of income inequality is 40.3 Gini per cent, according to the World Bank. The Gini coefficient—also known as the Gini index or Gini ratio— is a measure of statistical dispersion developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini, and published in his 1912 paper Variability and Mutability (Italian: Variabilità e mutabilità). The Gini coefficient measures the inequality among values of a frequency distribution for example levels of income.

To put this in perspective, Japan has the lowest Gini% of 24.5 meaning it has the lowest income inequality of any country in the world while a country like the Seychelles has a Gini % of 65.8 which means it has the worst income distribution in the world. Some countries have no publically available data such as North Korea. Trinidad and Tobago placed 89th out of 156 countries (Wikipedia, 2012 (b)). Our income inequality is closely matched to that of the United States (Gini % of 40.3), the United States having one of the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world.

Green collar jobs and the green energy industry are much better suited to tackling income inequality due to inherent qualities of this industry. Solar energy allows decentralised power distribution. This facilitates many smaller independent energy integrators, freelance technicians and resellers of balance of systems components. The green energy chain can generate orders of magnitude more jobs than the natural gas chain. Start up capital for a solar installer/solar developer is much lower than someone looking to start an oil and gas company. In 2012, the renewable energy industry was the biggest job creator in Germany. The IRENA study estimates that all renewable energy sectors combined in Germany created 370,000 jobs last year – more than half of the almost 550,000 new jobs the German economy added as a whole that year, according to official statistics.

IRENA is the acronym for the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation comprised of 75 member states.

Green collar jobs also can sometimes have an improved quality and “decency” as compared with traditional fossil fuel energy jobs. For example, according to a study conducted by the IILS (2010), a substantially lower number of wind power employees in China reported experience with high temperature, noise, dust and radiation than employees at small and large thermal energy companies. Renewable energy jobs can offer other social benefits: for example, bioenergy and wind power can help provide local economic opportunities that prevent the need for migration from rural areas.

(IILS is the acronym for the International Institute for Labour Studies, which was established by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1960 as a centre for advanced studies in the social and labour field).

For this green energy revolution to kick off, it is necessary for the central governments of countries to provide assistance to level the uneven playing field. Germany gets much less solar radiation than United States but despite this Germany has more solar power capacity installed. This is because Germany put in place a healthy federal subsidy for solar. Over time they have reduced this subsidy.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is well aware of the numerous financial and social benefits of incorporating renewable energy into the mix and so they have hired a team of consultants to design policies and measure to create a renewable energy industry in Trinidad and Tobago. So we look out for progress in this field in the future.

Ian Smart (BA Economics, BEngSci, MEngSci)

CEO of Smart Energy Limited


IILS. (2010, March). Study on Green Employment in China. Retrieved October 7, 2011, from ILO website:—asia/—ro-bangkok/—ilo-beijing/documents/publication/wcms_155395.pdf

Wikipedia (a).”Economy of Trinidad and Tobago.” Last modified 28 November, 2012.

Wikipedia.(b)”List of countries by income equality.” Last modified 29 December, 2012.

Wilkinson, Richard. How economic inequality harms societies. Edinburgh,Scotland. TEDGlobal 2011

[1] 0 Gini% means perfect equality and 100% means one-person controls all the wealth

Category/ies:Solar Tech, Trinidad and Tobago Articles.
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