The inability of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries to decide on a certification system for energy service companies (ESCO) is a major barrier to efforts to increase energy efficiency in Trinidad and Tobago, according to Christopher Narine-Thomas, Chairman of Energy Efficiency and Alternative Energy Committee of the Energy Chamber. Narine-Thomas, in his presentation at the Clean Energy Conference 2017, showed how the lack of an approved certification system was one of the barriers that was preventing the implementation of energy efficiency investments in the power generation sector. The inability to invest in energy efficiency upgrades is costing the county hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue from gas sales every year.
The issue of ESCO certification has been around since 2010, when Parliament passed legislation creating a tax allowance that provides a 150% tax credit on expenditure relating to energy efficiency audits and subsequent upgrades. The catch is that this tax credit can only be accessed once the work is carried out by an ESCO certified by the Ministry of Energy; however, the Ministry of Energy has no system for certifying ESCOs so nobody has been able to access the tax credit.
There was a committee established in the then Ministry of Energy to determine how they could certify ESCOs, but no decision has been taken on the issue in the almost seven years since the incentive was announced. According to industry sources, members of the Ministry of Energy Committee reported that they were nervous about implementing the system to certify ESCOs as they feared being sued if something went wrong with any of the work being conducted by one of the certified ESCOs. Parliament’s intentions in passing the legislation have not been met due to administrative indecision.
The Energy Chamber of Trinidad & Tobago has lobbied the Ministry of Energy repeatedly on the issue of ESCO certification. Dax Driver, Energy Chamber CEO, explains, ‘We understand the difficulty that the Ministry has with this issue as they are simply not set up to conduct this sort of certification system. However, there are other bodies in the country who are, including organisations like the Energy Chamber and the Green Building Council. In most countries, these sort of industry certifications are run by trade associations and there is no reason it should be different in Trinidad and Tobago. The Energy Chamber is already running a company certification system on behalf of the industry, called Safe to Work, where we already have over 500 certified companies, so we understand how to do this sort of thing. We have urged the government to allow us to do the certification on behalf of the Ministry, but they don’t seem to be able to make a decision on this. Meanwhile, we are wasting gas in power generation and electricity consumption that could instead be earning valuable foreign exchange in the petrochemical and LNG sectors.’