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Trinidad lagging behind Caricom partners in cleaner energy

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The Trinidad & Tobago government’s initiative to develop a Renewable Energy (RE) policy and strategy is likely to receive widespread support throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

For years now, there has been a kind of romanticism about the importance of moving towards the use of renewable energy in Trinidad and Tobago.

The voices became louder in the wake of the 2007 Ryder Scott study which suggested that the natural gas reserves to production ratio was down to 12 years.

At that time, there was the widely held but erroneous view that by 2020, Trinidad and Tobago would become a net energy importer. Belatedly the Government seems to have come around to the view that Trinidad and Tobago needs to join the rest of the region, and indeed the world, in promoting renewable energy technology (RET) in spite of our hydrocarbon resource base.

Both the policy makers and renewable energy enthusiasts would discover that the road from policy to action is by no means straight or smooth.

There are several challenges to overcome, including those related to economics and political will.

Trinidad and Tobago lags behind its Caricom partners with respect to the use and penetration of RET.

Evidence abounds on the growth of RET usage throughout the region.

Barbados has become world famous for its use of solar water heaters (SWH).

In 2002, there were more than 35,000 water heaters installed in Barbados, making it the third highest ranked country in the world on a per capita basis.

Jamaica is making its mark in wind-driven power generation, from the Wigton Windfarm project, commissioned in 2004.
Wigton Windfarm Ltd supplies the Jamaica power company with an average 7 MW of power.

In Grenada, the use of commercial solar power systems is expanding.

Grensol, a supplier of commercial and domestic solar power systems, boasts that it has installed more than 30 systems across Grenada. It has also brokered an agreement with Grenlec, the power company, to facilitate the sale of excess power back to the grid.

Tiny Nevis is harnessing its geothermal potential.

Next year, St Kitts/Nevis expects to commission a 10-megawatt geothermal power plant which would satisfy fully the island’s power demand.

St Kitts is expected to come on line within two years as capacity expends to 40 MW.

The geothermal source has a rated potential to generate up to 900 MW of power.

As a result, St Kitts hopes to be supplying power to a wider network of islands over the next five to ten years
The main drivers for the expansion of RET throughout the region have been energy costs and energy security.

Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, all Caricom members are energy importers.

The devastating experience of the oil boom of the 1970s and the reinforcing impact of the last five years have set these nations on an irreversible road towards energy sustainability through RETs.

It is not surprising therefore that Trinidad and Tobago lags behind.

Economics will be the biggest challenge to the translation of RE policy into action.

With heavily subsidised domestic prices for both hydrocarbon fuels and electricity, there has been no economic incentive for the use of RETs.

As it seeks to promote RETs, the Government is likely to find itself in a dilemma.

It must chose between providing a competing subsidy for the use of solar or other RE or increasing the prices on electricity and hydrocarbon fuels so as to enhance the commercial attractiveness of RETs.

This is fundamental to the success of any RE policy.

The second and related challenge is the political will to do what is required.

Thus far, Government has failed to demonstrate that there is the political will to move away from liquid fuels.

The sad story of CNG makes the point.

While the use of CNG, as a cleaner environmentally friendly fuel, has been touted now for nearly 25 years, there is to my knowledge, not a single PTSC bus or Government vehicle that is powered by CNG.

Ironically, perhaps the single example of Government directly demonstrating commitment to use CNG was back in 1985 when the current Prime Minister, then Minister of Energy, drove a CNG-powered vehicle after the first CNG pilot station was commissioned. To win the confidence of the citizenry, Government must have the political will to back up its words and policy prescriptions with action.

In the case of RET, Government may also need to take the lead by mandating the use of RET in Government-owned facilities.

For example, in Israel, the world’s highest per capita user of solar water heaters, Government mandated the installation of SWH in all Government-owned buildings, it then legislated SWH within its building codes.


Source: Jamaica Observer



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