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Official Launch of The Renewable Energy Committee



Senator the Honorable Conrad Enill, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries – 4th from Right with members of the newly appoint members of the Renewable Energy Committee.


1. Ms. Jasmine Gopaul, Environmental Economist, Environmental Policy and Planning Unit, Ministry of Planning, Housing, and the Environment

2. Mr. Narine Charran, Senior Economic Policy Analyst, Ministry of Public Utilities

3. Mr. Vernon De Silva, Director, Energy Research and Planning Division, Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries – Chairman of the Renewable Energy Committee

4. Mr. Gregory Jones, Senior Economist, Research Planning and Technical Services Division, Ministry of Science, Technology and Tertiary Education

5. Dr. Indra Haraksingh, Lecturer, Department of Physics, University of the West Indies and President of the Solar Committee of the Caribbean

6. Mr. Wayne Punnette, Director, Trade Facilitation, Ministry of Trade and Industry

8 Professor Adel Sharaf, Professor of Energy Systems and Vice Provost Post Graduate Studies, Research and Development, University of Trinidad and Tobago

9 Mr. Allen Clarke, Senior Engineer, Generation Interface, Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission

10 Ms. Marcia Maynard, Team Leader, Business Development, National Energy Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago Limited



It gives me great pleasure to address you here today at this occasion to appoint members of the newly established Renewable Energy Committee, a  Committee that holds special significance in the context of this country’s sustainable development goals and objectives in relation to Vision 2020. Sustainable Development and Energ Security is a necessity for everyone in today’s civilization. Trinidad and Tobago has been fortunate to be endowed with vast reserves of oil and gas, which have been the mainstay of our economy over the last century and continues to be today. Indeed,Trinidad and Tobago have benefited tremendously from the fortunes of both oil and gas, which has been a critical element in our industrial growth and development in our 2020 vision goal of achieving developmental status. Over 1600 MW of power is generated from approximately 280 MMscf/d of natural gas.


      This daily generating capacity of power is used to service the industrial, commercial and residential needs within Trinidad andTobago. One may ask the question why the need for renewable energy development in a country like ours – a net exporter of petroleum related products and where electricity produced from combined cycle generation using natural gas makes it the least expensive in the Caribbean. While we have been endowed with these resources which we have developed over a hundred (100) year period, today marks a very auspicious and memorable day in the, history of the energy sector of Trinidad and Tobago, as we are gathered here to officially launch the Renewable Energy initiative under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI).         


      The REC is expected to set the groundwork and guide our path forward to continuously increase the energy mix between RE developments and fossil fuel usage. This implies that as more and more electricity and other fuels are extracted from various sources of RE, the utilization of energy from oil and gas will decrease. This feat will not be accomplished overnight; rather it will take many years to achieve these goals. The REC’s first step towards achieving this goal would be the formulation of a Renewable Energy Policy Green Paper and promotion of Renewable Energy development in Trinidad and Tobago. The broad tasks assigned to this Committee include the conduct of a current state assessment of RE applications and research activities in Trinidad and Tobago involving photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, wind energy, wave energy, and biofuels. Based on studies done to date as well as the collection and analysis of new data, technical and economic assessments of RE technologies will be performed by using appropriate criteria relevant to this country.


      In so doing, feasible and practical renewable energy technologies will be identified in various sectors including transportation, industry, manufacturing, commercial, and residential. A macroeconomic model of the energy supply/demand matrix for Trinidad and Tobago needs to be developed and there is need to identify a priority list of renewable energy projects which can feasibly be undertaken in the short, medium and long term. Appropriate targets and time frames for the development of renewable energy projects will be required to achieve meaningful implementation of these projects. In order to increase our renewable resources in the energy mix, the government will need to determine the level of incentives (tax relief, infrastructure support, grants, subsidies, etc.) required to promote the use of renewable energy technologies in each sector.


      In order to advance the implementation of RE technologies in Trinidad and Tobago, there will be the need to identify opportunities for Research and Development. Financing Renewable Energy projects by local and international agencies can be enhanced through access to the Clean Development Mechanism (or CDM), and carbon trading in the international arena. It is interesting that the Dominican Republic is now the thirdcountry in the region and seventh in theworld to take part in the CDM. For RE development to progress in this country, new legislation and regulations will be necessary for the exploitation, development and use of renewable energy. There will also be the need to initiate dialogue and establish linkages among public and private sectors and international companies that are currently engaged in various sources of RE development. A renewable energy policy document (Green Paper) would be prepared for review by the REC and presented to the public and all stakeholders for comments/criticisms and recommendations for moving forward in this relatively new area of activity in this country. Finally, the Committee would be responsible for developing a public education campaign to sensitise the country about thegradual introduction of RE into the national energy mix.


      Ladies and Gentlemen, it is anticipated that renewable energy technologies will play an increasing role in reducing the usage of fossil fuel and by extension mitigate the climate change phenomenon globally. In the context of the local economy, renewable energy development is being given increasing attention as  it provides an opportunity for this country to increase the diversification of its energy mix and with continued development, could ultimately replace a proportion of the country’s energy needs from fossil fuels. Such displaced fuel could be exported to earn foreign exchange. Our national sustainable development objectives demand the optimal utilization of our valuable petroleum resources. Issues with respect to energy efficiency and conservation must therefore be underscored in the thrust to move forward. In this regard, renewable energy provides us with an opportunity to complement our valuable petroleum resources through creating a more diversified energy portfolio.


      In the future, more energy in the form of electricity and transportation fuels will be generated from various sources of RE thereby increasing the ratio of energy derived from RE sources to that of energy gained from fossil fuels. In so doing, Carbon Dioxide emissions would be reduced thus mitigating the impact on climate change and global warming. Renewable energy development also has the potential for significant tangible value added to the domestic economy. This is through creation of new investment opportunities,new horizons in research and development, new linkages with the rest of the economy and income and employment generation through the development of RE manufacturing activity in the country.


      It is generally agreed that Renewable Energy may not yet be cost competitive with energy derived from traditional fossil fuels and consequently, need incentives. This however is relative to the existing price levels of oil and gas based energy products. Moreover the opportunity cost in terms of the environment is often ignored. It is also true that the gap between the two forms of energy has been narrowing over the years. Solar energy today is 90% cheaper than it was in the 1970s while wind energy, now produced at 9-11US cents/KWh, has been reducing constantly to reach affordability with the cost of electricity derived from natural gas, which in Trinidad and Tobago averages 4 US cents/KWh. Trinidad and Tobago has limited experience in the renewable energy arena. In fact apart from some small scale experimentation projects by TSTT and TTEC in photovoltaics and wind the only significant project thus far in which there has been active participation by a number of stakeholders has been a demonstration solar water-heating project. This involved five host-homes in Trinidad and five in Tobago. It was sponsored by the Ministry, BPTT, THA and the TDC and managed by the UNDP. Even with such limited experience we have been able to learn some important lessons.


      Planning is essential and this requires that there be collaboration among all stakeholders. Although the technology has been tried and tested, training, maintenance, choice of RE equipment and certification of suppliers are critical success factors. The potential for the development of a photovoltaics industry was another initiativein which the Ministry was involved. This project was undertaken jointly among the UTT, BPTT, T&TEC and other private and public sector stakeholders. It was found that there were very bright prospects for the development of a photovoltaics industry in Trinidad and Tobago.


      As we seek to develop our renewable energy resources in Trinidad and Tobago it is important that we draw from the experiences of our regional neighbours. I am aware that programmes such as the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme CREDP), has been very active over the years in removing the barriers to the adoption of renewable energy and facilitating its development regionally and it is my hope that such initiatives would continue in the future. There is much room for growth and development in the region. Currently, hydopower is perhaps is most significant renewable energy application, with Suriname and Belize leading the way; in the latter country it accounts for about 40% of electricity production. Guyana also has significant potential in this area and it is anticipated that 70 – 80 percent of that country’s electricity needs would be supplied by that source by 2012.


      Cuba and Jamaica leads in wind energy development; but major plans are apace in the Dominican Republic where, in March 2008, licences were awarded for the construction of three wind parks to produce up to 190Mega Watts. Solar energy is widespread but most development in this area has taken place in Barbados. St Lucia, Dominica and St. Kitts/Nevis are actively involved in geothermal energy applications. There can also be an inextricable link between the development of indigenous renewable energy resources and the issue of energy security. This relationship is somewhat defined by the socio-economic and geopolitical circumstances of countries. To our Caribbean neighbours the question of energy security was heavily influenced by the economic realities these countries faced in the recent past when oil prices reached its highest level ever. Despite the assistance provided by Trinidad and Tobago the growth and development of these economies became under serious threat. By contrast, for the U.S.A, the question of energy security may be more influenced by the risk involved in dependence on oil and gas products from foreign sources which that country considers “unreliable or unfriendly”.


      Ladies and gentlemen, it is very important to place the event here today in the context of global debate on sustainable development and in particular, the Climate Change issue. As many of you may be aware, Trinidad and Tobago signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in January 1999. This protocol is an update to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or UNFCC) that recognizes the development of Renewable Energy projects among initiatives aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As a developing country we have been exempt thus far from climate change obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. However, with our relatively intensive industrialization thrust, this country cannot avoid the climate change issue and needs to pay increasing attention to this phenomenon in order to honour any future obligations we may face on the global environmental front, when the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012.


      The existence of the global climate change phenomenon is unequivocal and is regarded a serious issue by most leading scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated that most of the observed increase in average global temperatures since the mid 20th century has been due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (i.e. human related) greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Efficient/cost effective mitigatory measures are extremely essential to address this issue because of the adverse consequences of global increase in air temperatures, change in precipitation patterns, rise in sea level, and other aspects of the climate on which the natural environment and human systems depend. To small island states like the Caribbean this threat is very real.


      The prevailing global financial crisis dominated the World Economic Forum which was held in Davos, Switzerland in January of this year, and the climate change issue was also an important item on the agenda. It was pointed out that clean development mechanism (CDM) including hefty investments in renewable energy sectors need to more than triple – to about $515 billion USD a year – to stop global warming emissions reaching unsustainable levels. Other reports indicate that the United States of America, Europe and other nations as part of their economic stimulus plans will spend about $100 billion USD on projects to curb climate change. An impetus to the fight against climate change was a recent announcement made by Mr. Barack Obama, the new President of the United States of America that country would adopt an international leadership role in this area. This is of major significance as the United States of America did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Indeed some optimism has been expressed that agreement later this year on a climate change treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol is more likely as a result of this US policy shift.


      These international developments emphasize the need for pro action and dialogue in moving forward with our local plans and programmes on the alternative energy front.This Committee as you should note, currently comprises mainly government stakeholders and academia and is charged with the responsibility to commence this dialogue at a high level. The intention is to include other stakeholders, inclusive of our manufacturing sector in the process of dialogue at public consultations, when the first draft policy document is completed to ensure the widest cross section of representative views in the country is incorporated in the final product.


      Ladies and Gentlemen, the prevailing economic downturn should not deter us in any way in the launch of this process today.Instead it should be construed as providing us with an ideal opportunity to rethink our development strategies. Along with energy efficiency and conservation, the adoption of renewable energy options must be an important goal as we pave our path for the sustainable development of our nation. In addition, as we seek sustainable solutions for the future we must ensure that we recognize the inextricable link involving the issues of climate change, cleaner growth, energy security, income generation and employment creation. Finally, I wish to make the point that the growth and development of this country has been significantly influenced by our hydrocarbon resources and this reality would continue for a considerable length of time in the future. However we recognize we are part of a global community and we as a country must play our part and take the steps that are necessary for the long term sustainability of planet earth.


      I wish you all the success in your endeavours. I know that you have an interesting task ahead of you but when I look at the constitution of the Committee I have no doubt that you would be successful in achieving your goals. I can assure you that you will receive my fullest support and that of the Ministry.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.


The Honourable Conrad Enill

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries

Category/ies:Trinidad and Tobago Speeches.
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