Sustaining T&T Through Renewable Energy
Mounting atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is the cause of global warming trends, resulting in sea level rise and climatic changes. It is evident that such geographical changes are detrimental especially to small islands like Trinidad and Tobago. We were not blessed with a large continental land mass, where we can hide inland from rising sea levels.
Trinidad and Tobago is only 5,131 square kilometres. Planet Earth has an area of 510 million square kilometres. Arguably, if Trinidad and Tobago acts alone, it may not even make a dent in carbon dioxide levels worldwide. It would be insufficient to keep the temperature from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels), however, if we act connectedly as nations of the world we can make a difference.
November will mark the 22nd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Last year’s momentous Paris Agreement was the first agreement that all countries in the convention have signed. With the current momentum, the agreement is set to take effect by the end of the year. This means that a lot must change globally to protect Earth from the catastrophic effects of climate change.
To be honest, fighting the climate crisis, for a more sustainable world, is a lot easier than we imagine. It’s like switching to a healthier diet. In your mind it seems impossible. You love meat and you can’t live without it. You love fast food and everything else that you know is harmful for your body, but they taste so good. You even tell yourself it is cheaper, and more in keeping with your budget, especially during difficult economic times. However, you know in your heart of hearts that it is not healthy. From the moment you begin eating healthier, exercising regularly, drinking the recommended water quantities, you begin feeling so much better and you wonder what took you so long to transition in the first place. When you begin to see the benefits on your body, you are even more motivated to make it work. So too, will the effect of greener, more sustainable communities have on us in T&T.
T&T has been a leader in the energy sector for over a century. With the global shift towards climate-friendly energy sources, can we sustainably make the shift towards renewable energy? Renewable energy, such as solar, wind power, geothermal and biofuels, to name a few, is energy obtained from sources which are not naturally depleted.
Renewable energy at 2014, accounted for 22 per cent of the world energy consumption and is steadily increasing. T&T is blessed with all of these resources, for example, brilliant sunshine for over 90 per cent of the year and temperatures between 25 to 36 degrees Celsius annually. We have reliable wind speeds between 20 to 28 kilometres per hour. We have oceans all around us for tidal energy. Why then haven’t we tapped into these resources to develop clean energy systems to run our country?
Some may say oil and gas was good and easy money; well, why not capitalise on it while the iron is hot? The truth is oil and gas resources in the world are set to be depleted within 50 to100 years. It is indeed mandatory that we transition towards renewable energy sources soonest, to ensure that we position ourselves as leaders in the field before the oil runs out.
Furthermore, when oil and gas is used, greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. This causes increased temperature and an imbalance of the world’s ecological systems. Renewable energy does not produce harmful gases when utilised. It is safe for the environment and does not pollute our atmosphere, our water and our forests in any way.
In May 2013, Trinidad and Tobago signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Department of Energy, and began work on the Caribbean’s Regional Renewable Energy Centre. Local universities such as The University of the West Indies and the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) have also developed programmes on Renewable Energy to equip the nation with the academic tools in the field. UTT’s Point Lisas campus is also home to T&T’s first solar-powered house which is used as a teaching aid for the university’s renewable energy programme.
The house cost $1 million to build. On October 16, 2014, the then government agreed to the development of an integrated photovoltaic park to be built east of the Point Lisas area. The UTT’s Energy Institute also proposed to launch a wave dragon to determine the feasibility of using tidal energy generated from that and other coastal areas. In October 2015, the government set the target of ten per cent power generation from renewable energy by 2021. This is a welcome target for our country.
In 2015, global investment into renewable energy increased to US$286 billion, with 147 gigawatts of renewable electricity coming on stream. This is as large as Africa’s entire power generating capacity. The Renewable Energy Policy Network 2016 Report shows that renewable energy has contributed to 19.2 per cent and 23.7 per cent of humanity’s global energy consumption in 2014 and 2015.
In the Caribbean neighbouring Bonaire has switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity, which is provided by wind turbines on the island. Considerable changes have also been made in Barbados and Cuba, and St Vincent which has set a target of 60 per cent renewable energy by 2020. The Caribbean is making great strides in the transition towards cleaner energy sources.
Trinidad and Tobago, with the same zeal it has invested into the petroleum industry, is well on the way to a more sustainable future.
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