Trinidad and Tobago, the only non-associated gas producer and exporter in the Caribbean, will be playing a major role in the Caribbean Energy Security Conference, which Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley is due to attend in Washington D.C. on May 3 and 4. 

This is because “energy security”, as far as the Caribbean is concerned, means power stations throughout the region, the switching out of fuel oil or diesel into gas as their current fuel of choice and, in the long term, renewable energy (RE, which covers solar, wind and hydro-power). 

This has been motivated principally by the high cost of oil (at least, until recently) in comparison with the lower cost of gas. Now that the oil price itself has fallen to the US$37-US$40 range, that motivation is not as pressing in the short term, but few analysts believe that oil will stay down for long and that the argument for converting to gas will remain valid. 

So “energy security” or “energy sustainability”, as it is also called, will undoubtedly be confirmed at the Washington conference to mean adopting more price-reliable alternatives and this is where Trinidad and Tobago comes into the picture. 

The former People’s Partnership (PP) government established a US$1 billion Energy Fund for Caribbean Sustainability, following the first Caribbean Energy Security Summit in Washington in January, 2015, chaired by US vice president, Joe Biden. 

It affirmed Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment “to working with the US and other Caribbean countries to foster a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for the region.” 

In July 2015, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) demonstrated its clear support for the concept by promising US$600 million over a sixyear period. Other international donors, as well as the Trinidad and Tobago government itself, have promised to pitch in. 

The IDB will manage the fund and the then minister of planning and sustainable development, Dr. Bhoe Tewari, noted at the time of the signing of an MOU with the IDB that “to qualify for funding, projects must be viable and make economic sense.” 

He opined that the substitution of oil with gas and RE sources in regional power stations and in other areas, would make the Caribbean “a much greener place.” 

The present People’s National Movement (PNM) government obviously agrees with this and should be carrying the project forward during its term of office. Trinidad and Tobago is already much “greener” than its regional counterparts because of its longstanding use of gas in power generation, but the fund could be utilised to add an RE component to this. 

The decisions in this matter will have to be made by the three generating companies which supply power to the transmitter and distributor, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), though the latter is not waiting around on them. 

It has established, as Courtenay Mark, assistant general manager for engineering, often reminds us in his addresses to various conferences, three trial, grid-interconnected RE projects – 2.2kw of photovoltaic (PV) power at Mt Hope, 2.2kw of PV at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) at O’Meara, 2kw of PV at Gasparillo and 2.4kw of wind power, also at Gasparillo.