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Grenada makes big move to solar energy: Lessons for Trinidad & Tobago

T&T has the cheapest electricity rates in the Caribbean which has been a disincentive to the introduction of renewable energy. However, things are set to change due to a shift in political thinking by world leading figures and the volatility in the fossil-fuel energy market. Towards this end a local company is gearing up to provide solar energy to the market. Trinidad is hosting the Summit of the Americas in April next year and one of the topics on the agenda is energy security. This topic will incorporate renewable energy.

As the host nation it is important that we make strides in setting up a framework to facilitate renewable energy so that at the summit we will not just be facilitators but leaders as well.
One Caribbean island that has recently stood out with respect to setting up a policy framework to allow renewable energy for the electricity market to get a foothold is Grenada.

Grenada has some of the highest electricity rates in the world but at the same time has high levels of solar isolation. This unique combination has made the payback period for solar energy installation one of the shortest in the world.

Payback period is the time taken to reach break-even point on an investment. In the case of a solar energy installation it is the time taken for the cost of energy that would have been used by the utility to equal the cost of the solar energy installation.

The Government has not just relied on market forces to determine the introduction of solar energy but it has taken the next step and put into place a policy which allows grid connection with the local utility (Grenelec) and buy-back rates for energy generated at a one to one ratio (net metering). This is a big boost for photovoltaics* (PV) because 90 per cent of PV in the world is grid connect. The utility allows up to 10kWp systems to be connected to the grid. This size is more than enough for a large private home.

The policy also allows interconnection for renewable energy producers of up to 5MW.
Policy alone will not create the right conditions for maximum growth in the market unless it has capacity-building mechanisms in it. Capacity building includes the provision of technical support activities, training, specific technical assistance and resource networking. Capacity building is recognised as being a long-term, continuing process, in which all stakeholders participate.
For example, in the case of renewables, the stakeholders would be the electric utilities, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Trade and so on.

Grenada has started to implement capacity building by introductory training for electricians and engineers in renewable energies. Also, the local tertiary institute (St George’s University), in conjunction with Grenada Solar Power Company, has launched a research programme to assess the different solar module types for Caribbean use.

There are future plans to set up more advance courses for technicians in renewables which will be funded by a Caricom organisation, Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme, and also an international co-operation enterprise for sustainable development (GTZ).
In summary, Grenada is a leader in fighting global warming and creating higher levels of energy security. Currently in other parts of the Caribbean, the Barbados Government is in negotiations with its utility to come up with a similar course of action.

In T&T, the University of T&T is starting a number of courses in renewables but the key is to create an environment where the jump from research/theoretical knowledge to deployment and technical boots on the ground can be made. Grenada has done that and in so doing is creating a greener Caribbean.

*Photovoltaics: conjunction of the Greek word photo meaning light and volt meaning motive force that moves electrons, hence electrical energy that is powered by light.



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