‘SUSTAINABLE energy’ is a term not much used in Trinidad and Tobago – and its meaning is not precisely identified – but the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago, under the energetic leadership of coordinator Hazel Brown, is striving to change all that. 

Ms. Brown has taken a stab at a definition by stressing that sustainable energy is “energy that is consumed at insignificant rates compared to its supply and with manageable collateral effects, especially environmental effects.” She adds, “It is an energy system that serves the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” 

The technologies that promote sustainable energy, as she outlines them, are: hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy, wave energy, geothermal, bio-energy and tidal power. 

These were all examined during the National Policy Dialogue on Sustainable Energy, held on June 16th 2016 at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) John S Donaldson campus on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. Participants were expected to have achieved the goal of “raising public awareness of the current policy landscape and critical public policy concerns around sustainable energy policy and practices within the Caribbean.” 

The Caribbean Consultative Working Group’s (CCWG) regional policy on sustainable energy featured prominently in the discussions. CCWG has chosen sustainable energy as the key policy issue it wants to promote in the region. It is no surprise, therefore, that the National Policy Dialogue, held in mid-June, would have focused on that initiative. 

Conference participants closely examined the following: 

• The status of policies, legislation and incentives which exist at the regional and national level, relating to energy efficiency and conservation. 

• The way the above could be improved, if necessary. 

• The findings of the strategic inquiries which have been conducted in Guyana, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Antigua and Grenada during 2015-2016, to decide whether they are still relevant. 

The National Policy Dialogue on Sustainable Energy was funded by the Londonbased Commonwealth Foundation under its project, ‘Support To Caribbean Civil Society for Enhanced Participatory Governance’. It remains to be seen what impact the outcome of the conference will have on Trinidad and Tobago’s so-far lukewarm attitude to sustainable energy. The country has successfully relied on fossil fuels for power generation, transport and other uses since 1908. 

Ms. Brown’s best argument in effecting a change may be her belief that “most sustainable energy technologies are either now close to being price competitive with fossil fuels or are already so.” 

That is probably good news for the energy and energy industries minister, Nicole Olivierre, who has included “a focused renewable energy programme” among the 14 goals she has set herself for her five-year term in office.