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Renewable Energy Development and the Manufacturing Sector

 

  

 

 

 

renewable-energy

 

FOR many decades, our country, like the rest of the world, has relied upon traditional sources of energy such as coal, oil and, more recently, there is growing reliance on natural gas. The manufacturing sector, in particular, is a major user of both oil and natural gas as inputs into production.  The energy sector is responsible for almost  50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, with the services and manufacturing sectors acounting for the majority of the difference. This points to two main issues. Firstly, the non-renewable nature of our major income earners – oil and natural gas – would leave us in a vulnerable economic position, should the country fail to step up its diversification efforts. Visionary thinking would suggest that new actions need to be taken in the present to secure our energy future.

 

Secondly and perhaps more importantly from an economic viability standpoint, it is hoped that the global economic crisis has afforded some valuable lessons to our fiscal policy makers. Oil prices fell from a high of US $145 per barrel in July 2008 to US $45 by the end of 2008. This dramatic US $ 100 decrease over a six month period strengthens the argument that it is quite risky to place all our proverbial national eggs in the basket of oil and natural gas. While the movements of natural gas prices have been far less dramatic, both fossil fuel sources are traded in a global market which is characterised by volatility, speculative behavior and uncertainty.

 

Such realities set the stage for the creation of conditions within TT that will spur the growth of a powerful renewable energy sector over the medium to long term. These conditions include the creation of a renewable energy policy and legislative framework which identifies the specific renewable options to be targeted for development. Once this is in place, it must then be followed by the allocation of large scale investment by the government and the provision of incentives for the emergence of entrepreneurs in the renewable energy industry.

 

The TTMA has been a consistent advocate for Research and Development into the Solar Energy Industry, with consideration of its potential benefits to local manufacturring. A study done on the Solar \ Photovoltaic option by a team of professionals from various government agencies and private sector stakeholdders has revealed that it holds great potential for revenue generation and downstream business development. The study indicates that the solar photovoltaic industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and that sustainable jobs can be created across the value chain.

 

This represents excellent possibilities for growth within manufacturing – the processes involved in deriving solar energy entails the manufacturing of silicon, solar wafers, solar cells and modules. TT’s manufacturing sector certainly has the capacity to engage in the production of all the components necessary to build a Solar PV industry in its entirety. There are other forms of renewable energy that are worth exploring. One such alternative is biomass. Biomass, often regarded as the oldest form of energy, is a renewable source which is friendly to the environment. Waste products such as residential waste, bagasse, vegetable oil, firewood and organic matter constitute some of the biomass forms that can be converted into electricity, heat and fuel. One of the most versatile energy sources, biomass is increasingly being used in electricity generation; the biomass gasification process facilitates the conversion of biomass into biogas that is used to generate electricity.

 

Wind energy is another possible alternative, which also has the advantage of convertibility into electricity without the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. TTMA believes that the time has come for government to strategically work with the relevant stakeholders within the private sector to invest in renewable energy development in the short term. In particular and with due consideration of all the options, Solar Photovoltaic energy appears to be the most viable for TT From a regional perspective, the abundant land and water resources in Guyana and Dominica, the potential for wind energy given our climatic conditions, the initiation of ethanol production from sugar in Jamaica and the successful derivation of solar energy in Barbados are concrete illustrations that there is latent potential for regional renewable energy development in a more comprehensive manner.

 

The TTMA is optimistic that various streams of activity surrounding renewable energy, including the upcoming Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, which takes place in October in Montego Bay, Jamaica, are definite signs that the region is in the early stages of transition towards greater balance in the use of renewable and non-renewable sources of energy. By attaining such a balance, our region would effectively improve its energy security, which is critical to the sustained growth of the TT manufacturing sector.

 

 

Michelle Felix



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