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Renewable energy champions

Monday, October 12, 2015

T&T has set a goal of 10 per cent renewable energy by the year 2021. This is the first time that a T&T government has set a target for renewable energy and it makes sense financially and environmentally. 

In the same week that the Government announced this target, Bloomberg New Energy Finance published a report that wind energy is now as cheap as natural gas and solar energy is not far behind. 

Renewable energy prices have steadily fallen and this trend will continue. Historically fossil fuel prices have gained three per cent on average each year. If wind energy is competitive in today’s depressed energy price market then it’s advantage will only increase when fossil fuel prices take off again. 

Renewable energy will stretch T&T’s fossil fuel reserves and put money in the treasury. 

Randy Ramadhar Singh, Renewable Energy Consultant at the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries (MEEI) told me: “Cabinet approved a wind resource assessment. It looked at a 100 Megawatt wind farm. This represents roughly 8 per cent of current demand. If that is fast-tracked and some solar farms are added, together with an increase in electricity efficiency then the 10 per cent goal should be achievable.”

Eventually the goal for T&T should be 100 per cent renewable energy. I want to challenge our Prime Minister and Minister of MEEI to become our renewable energy champions. 

Symbols are important. It has not gone unnoticed that our Minister of MEEA has made a point of using public transport to get to and from work. This cuts her carbon footprint. It is leadership by example. A powerful symbol. 

A next symbol should be the Prime Minister’s official residence being converted to renewable energy. This can be done immediately by the installation of solar arrays. It will show intent and be a powerful reminder of the vision he has for T&T’s energy future.

T&T has the second highest per capita CO2 footprint in the world. This is coupled with T&T having the second lowest renewable energy penetration globally. In 2012 T&T only generated 0.23 per cent of electricity from renewable sources, according to the International Energy Statistics report from the US Energy Information Administration. 

As a major hydrocarbon producer T&T faces special challenges in reducing its CO2 footprint. These challenges do not exist for renewable energy. That is one based on political will.

The natural gas that T&T currently uses for electricity generation can be sold on the international market for several times the value that it is sold for domestic use. 

As a small island developing state (SIDS) T&T is at increased risk of the effects of climate change. Scientists warn that we are rapidly using up our allocation of CO2 that we can pump in to the atmosphere before Earth’s atmosphere warms by more than 2°C, the limit beyond which they say that climate change will have catastrophic results for humanity. 

Just how catastrophic the results may be, become clearer with each new climate report.

The latest one from the United States National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a map with lots of red squares on it. Each of those red squares represents a part of the earth where temperatures have been rising. In case you didn’t know yet, the first eight months of 2015 have been the hottest in recorded history. Among the mass of red (nearly the entire planet) is a small grouping of blue blocks. These squares represent areas where temperatures have decreased. A cluster of them denotes areas where the temperatures are the coldest ever recorded. It is a piece of Atlantic Ocean just south of Iceland and Greenland. Those blue blocks give climate scientists shivers. 

It looks like so much cold, fresh water is melting from the glaciers in Greenland that the ocean currents there have slowed. 

Normally the difference in weight between fresh water and salt water drives what is referred to as the Atlantic conveyor belt but some scientists now think that the melting of the Greenland glaciers, at a rate of 100 billion tons of ice each year, is impacting the conveyor belt that transfers heat from the tropics to western Europe and brings cooler water back to the equator. 

Without this effect global climate will change in ways unimaginable to us. If the heat transfer ends, Europe could become just as uninhabitable as Siberia. Other parts will become arid, hot and equally unlivable. 

T&T is responsible for less that one per cent of global CO2 emissions. This does not mean that we are not part of the problem, or part of the solution. We need our renewable energy champions. 


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