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One way to curb this wanton wastage is through incentivised investment in the establishment of renewable energy infrastructure. The first to bat must be Trinidad and Tobago (T&T). As the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Caribbean and with the second highest per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint in the world, T&T needs to move renewable energy to the top of the list. Unlike any other Caribbean country, Trinidad and Tobago generates close to 100 per cent of its power from natural gas and it stands as CARICOM’s primary producer and sole exporter of that resource.
Dr. Thackwray Driver, president of the Energy Chamber of T&T, delivering the feature address at the launch of the second phase of the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School’s Sustainable and Renewable Energy Project Incubator, stated that T&T’s dependence on the energy industry has created a distorted and inefficient economy both in terms of energy use and fuel prices. Indeed, with plummeting global oil prices, we have been feeling the impact on our pockets. This is what it is like to live in a country that is so aligned to fuel prices; our standard of living is pegged to the fall and rise of the dollar.
Shouldn’t this provide more than enough incentive for change and economic rejuvenation? What then, is keeping us back from actually turning the tables and becoming a regional leader in the reach for renewables?
The new administration of Trinidad and Tobago has set a goal to reach 10 per cent renewable energy by the year 2021. Ambitious or not, it is a start, and one which needs to come into fruition; our lives depend on it. The heart of the matter is that T&T will need deep economic, political, societal, and cultural changes for change to occur, as fossil fuels have been the life source of the economy since the era when women wearing corsets was a normal thing. Bringing this goal to life in a way that is accepted by all will take effort that we have yet to see any administration in this country be strong enough to make, as well as a collective consciousness based on the principles of sustainable development.
The reality is that our policy framework is ridden with bureaucratic hindrances and it is in dire need of repair. To reach this target within five to six years, Trinidad will need to undergo extensive modification of its policies and regulations as well as engage in active enforcement throughout each industry. Crucially, alterations must be led by public-private partnership and be supported by civil society involvement. Furthermore, the big bucks that will be saved through the recent removal of fuel subsidies needs to be reinvested into funding this goal.
We are at a crossroads and genuine political will and action is needed for transformation to occur. This action needs to break barriers and reach for higher heights. Perhaps falling fuel prices may cause us to refocus on a different energy – renewable energy. However, it is vital that we remember that successful diversification of the economy must be accompanied by diversification of our minds, attitudes, and habits. While solar, wind, and hydropower energy is catching on in other islands of the Caribbean where electricity is up to six times more expensive than in Trinidad and Tobago, we lag far behind.
Movement toward renewable energy in this country will require considerable collaboration between the government and the people. Will T&T say hello to the modern world and relinquish its crown as the largest supplier of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to the United States and one of the largest LNG exporters in the world?
Only if we are all serious about the steadily expanding market for renewable energy. So let us stop suckling on black gold and embrace the future.
Dizzanne Billy, operates in the role of President of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) in Trinidad and Tobago, where she works in the areas of education and public awareness with regard to environment and development issues. She is a climate tracker with Adopt-A-Negotiator and a young advocate for climate change action.