The 60th anniversary year for the Energy Chamber of Trinidad & Tobago is coinciding with what is likely to be a very challenging year for the global energy sector and the Trinidad & Tobago economy, primarily due to the very low commodity prices. Our major event of the year, the annual Trinidad & Tobago Energy Conference, is taking place even earlier than usual, starting on the 18th January 2016, rather than in the customary first week of February. This is because Carnival 2016 is also very early and we have to ensure that the conference is not too close to Carnival.
The early Carnival has added an extra strain on the Energy Chamber, as we only have two weeks between the end of the Christmas and New Year holiday period and the start of the conference, when we are already working hard to maintain our revenue given the many cuts to our members’ travel, conference, sponsorship and training budgets. But there is nothing we can do about the oil price or the church calendar, so we just have to make the best of the situation and ensure that we are still able to be of value to our membership.
My focus has been on making sure that we remain relevant to our membership and that we can provide them with the services that they need at a price that reflects the market realities. One of our key focuses has to be on helping our members reduce costs by encouraging collaboration and sharing. The Energy Chamber, representing almost all companies in the sector, is ideally placed to encourage this collaboration and our experience with industry-wide initiatives such as Safe to Work and the PLEA passport system shows that we are able to bring the industry together to fix problems when necessary.
Preparing for the 60th anniversary celebrations I have spent some time looking back at the history of the Energy Chamber (formerly the South Trinidad Chamber. Looking back, I am heartened by the fact that some of the most vibrant and dynamic eras for the Chamber coincided with tough times for our membership. This is not actually very surprising. When times are tough members look to their associations to represent their interests and are keen to try out new ideas and new approaches to solving problems.
The South Chamber first became involved with the Energy Conference, or Petroleum Congress as it was originally known, in the depths of the late 1980s recession (though there were earlier incarnations in which we were not involved). The major policy drive coming out of the first conference organised by the South Chamber was the lease-out and farm-out programmes for abandoned Petrotrin fields and oil wells. This has proved to be an extremely effective programme and its success gave a major boost to the national economy through increased oil production and taxes, and also to the local economy of south Trinidad through increased economic activity in the traditional oilfields.
Despite the budget cuts, we have found that many of our sponsors have again chosen to support the conference and most of the trade show exhibitors (plus a few news ones) have returned to the conference once again. At the time of writing, delegate registrations also seem to be going well. Clearly the industry is keen on coming together to explore where we are at the moment, where we are heading and what we can do to create a sustainable future for our industry.
I hope that in twenty or thirty years from now people will be able to look back at the 2016 Energy Conference, also taking place in an extremely difficult period for our energy sector, and identify specific policy measures or initiatives that propelled forward our industry once again.