Decreasing electricity consumption will have a major overall economic benefit for Trinidad and Tobago. This is because every unit of natural gas not sold to low-priced domestic electricity generation can instead be sold to the higher priced petrochemical and LNG sectors, which also means increased export earnings and more foreign exchange.
However, decreasing electricity consumption also means lower revenue for the already financiallystrapped Trinidad & Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), which has existing “take or pay” contracts in place to purchase electricity from the independent electricity generating companies.
Finding a solution to this conundrum is a major challenge for Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Public Utilities, Robert Le Hunte.
Since assuming office in September 2017, Minister Le Hunte has been on a major campaign to promote the benefits of reducing electricity consumption and stopping the wanton waste of valuable energy that has characterised Trinidad and Tobago’s economy and society. While Minister Le Hunte has recognised that policy and regulatory measures need be introduced to create the right incentives to improve conservation, he also told EnergyNow that he believes that personal responsibility also plays a crucial role. He has called on leaders from both the public and private-sector to show the way and introduce simple low-cost and easyto- implement measures to cut down on electricity usage now, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
The issue of how to deal with T&TEC’s existing natural gas and power purchase contracts is a ticklish one for the Minister. The bottom-line is that the National Gas Company (NGC) will benefit most if they can divert natural gas away from the electricity generators to the petrochemical plants in Point Lisas and are therefore able to sell the gas at much higher prices. As T&TEC has to honour its power purchase contracts with the independent power producers whether it needs the electricity or not, reduced electricity consumption by consumers has negative financial implications for T&TEC under the present contractual structures in the sector.
It is public knowledge that T&TEC, which buys the gas from NGC and supplies it to the powergeneration companies, has not always been able to pay its natural gas bill to the NGC. While the NGC can cutoff supply to petrochemical plants without causing a national crisis, the implications of a nation-wide blackout if NGC were to cut-off supply to T&TEC is not something anybody wants to contemplate.
While the final solution to addressing the gas supply and power purchase contracts is not yet apparent, Minister Le Hunte tells EnergyNow that he has been exploring various options that would financially reward T&TEC if they were able to reduce electricity consumption. This may require a method to compensate T&TEC if they were able to drive down gas demand for electricity. Minister Le Hunte reports that he is actively working on these solutions and hopes he will be able to share more news in the near future.
In the meantime, he continues to urge all citizens to take personal responsibility for reducing their electricity consumption and helping the national effort to make the best use of our valuable but depleting natural resources – clearly a win-win situation, if ever there is one.