When the global pandemic impacted energy markets around the world, the government in Trinidad and Tobago quickly realized that there could be crippling consequences for the economy and immediately took action. There was a need to assess the long-term future of the energy sector and ascertain how the country could move toward a more sustainable future.
One of the people entrusted with this mandate was Stuart R. Young, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister. He held talks with oil and gas companies, petrochemical companies and important players in the field as the country looked to improve the revenue received from the monetization of its hydrocarbon resources.
“We see natural gas as a transitory fuel in the movement to a low-carbon economy and we continue to be a strong advocate for its continued use for the future,” says Young. “As part of our carbon mitigation strategy, we are pursuing carbon sequestration capture and utilization and the introduction of hydrogen into our energy mix. A key driver to achieving this objective is the establishment of renewables as part of the energy mix.
“My goal is to keep the domestic energy sector competitive and on a sustainable path by ensuring we keep abreast of developments in the global industry. Our efforts thus far have been fruitful in turning around the sector and in achieving increased revenues for Trinidad and Tobago. We have also undertaken a study to determine the potential of offshore wind on the northeast coast of Trinidad and Tobago. The intent is to use the energy to drive a hydrogen economy. We are working with the energy companies including the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago on adopting technology and measures to eliminate greenhouse gases and methane gases.”
A history-making deal
Another form of clean energy has also come into focus in recent months after a host of government ministries and agencies were able to finalize a deal with a major international conglomerate for the construction of the largest solar plant in the Caribbean.
“The negotiation with BP Lightsource Shell will result in the solar plant generating 119 megawatts of power from renewable energy. That is a major achievement,” explains Marvin Gonzales, Minister for Public Utilities. “The construction of that major, massive solar plant will commence this year and will be completed in 2024. All of that will assist our transition to renewable energy. The result of that means that every molecule of gas that is generated in the energy sector will now become available to sell to our petrochemical industries and our international customers, as opposed to utilizing our limited gas resources to generate cheap electricity.”
Trinidad and Tobago has traditionally had low electricity rates thanks to the country generating and producing gas, but Gonzales feels there must be a change in order to ensure a high level of service and incentivize people to make the move to renewable energy sources. “We are working with the Regulated Industries Commission to adjust the tariff for electricity, which would allow the electricity company to get enough revenue to undertake massive investment, as well as routine and preventative maintenance on their transmission and distribution grid,” he says.
“It would also facilitate that transition to renewable energy and incentivize citizens to invest in solar energy and wind, as well as to conserve the amount of energy we consume on a daily basis. That is also going through some major transformation.”
Looking to the future
In order to be successful with its renewable energy goals, the government has also recognized the need to develop homegrown talent that can work within the sector. That is why the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission has launched a number of training programs aimed at people who have just left school. “They will train for two years and then the electricity company will have a pool of young engineers and young linesmen. They will have highly trained people upon which they can draw for employment within the organization,” reveals Gonzales.
“Some of those people may go and undertake private engagements, work for private companies, or set up their own private companies, but most of them will get permanent employment within the electricity company and the commission.” While this major transformation may take some time, Trinidad and Tobago are determined to lead the way when it comes to renewable energy in the Caribbean. The country has set a target of 30% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 and there are strategies in place to move away from fossil fuels toward clean hydrogen in the future. “We are on the cusp of major transformation,” states Gonzales. “In fact, it is already underway. We recognize the direction we are pursuing and many of our international partners have traversed that road already. Therefore, support is sincerely welcome.”