Renewable Energy Challenges

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Renewable Energy Challenge Article (1)

Energy Insider – David Renwick
“ MY 17 or 18 readers will recall that I recently spoke of the establishment of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) in Barbados, the goal of which will be the active promotion of the substitution of fossil fuels with various forms of renewable energy (RE) in the region, including Trinidad and Tobago.

CCREEE has a demanding task on its hands.

It will have to try and live up to the goal set out in the Caricom Energy Policy (CEP) of 20 per cent of energy in Caricom to come from RE sources by 2017, 28 per cent by 2022 and 47 per cent-almost half–by 2027.

Trinidad and Tobago itself has set its own target–ten per cent of energy generated by RE by 2021, as announced in the 2015-2016 budget address by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

Even the more modest Trinidadd and Tobago figure stands little chance of being achieved, according to analysts.
Caricom member states are being nothing if not ambitious by setting the bar so high.

Of course it all depends on how determined the governments are to meet their goals and whether CCREEE, under direction of Dr Albert Binger from Jamaica can force the pace.

The biggest single leap into RE can be made in the electricity generation sector but the Power Generation Co of Trinidad and Tobago (PowerGen), which seems to be in the midst of reconstructing its business with the imminent closure of the Port of Spain power station, has not declared whether it will be using the opportunity to insert some RE into the mix.

The Point Lisas, Penal and Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) stations will presumably continue to be run on natural gas.

The electricity transmitter and distributor, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission, long since severed from the generating sector, actually seems to be putting PowerGen to shame by dabbling in RE on its own initiative.

It has four grid-interconnected RE installations – Mt Hope photovoltaics (2.2 kilowatt hours – kw), UTT O’Meara (PV 2.2 kw) Gasparillo PV system (2 kw) and the Gasparillo wind turbine (2.4 kw), according to is assistant general manager, engineering, Courtney Mark – not a very large amount.

It may well have to be left to the private sector – households and small businesses – to take up the slack via their own RE projects, using the sun or the wind.

Re-generated power is one thing but, of course, there are less dramatic avenues for householders and small businesses to show the way in RE and that is through using the sun, rather than electricity to heat their water.

Solar water heating (SWH) has, so for, had only modest take-up in this country as far as Energy Insider is aware.

But in recent report, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggests that “SWH systems can be highly cost-effective across the Caribbean, taking advantage of the region’s abundant solar resources”.

The report points out something that most of us already know – that Barbados leads the region – indeed, the world – in the use of SWH.

It ranks among the top four countries in the world for installed SWH capacity per capita, the others being Austria, Cyprus and Israel.

Despite the recent fall in oil and gas prices, the report entitled “Solar Water Heating TechScope Market Readiness Assessment for Eight Caribbean Countries” insists that the region is still ripe for RE.

“Many Caribbean countries rely almost entirely on imported liquid fuels for energy production,” is observes. “This heavy reliance on imports can inhibit economic development and leaves them vulnerable to spikes in global energy prices.”

It goes on: “National budgets are often burdened with expensive and fluctuating subsidies. For some Caribbean countries, the cost of electricity subsidies can exceed two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).”

“Widespread adoption” of RE resources, the report argues, “can reduce fossil fuel dependence and is these markets are developed sustainably, create local business and employment opportunities.”

It singles out the SWH Sector, noting that “since electricity is used as the primary fuel source for domestic water heating in many Caribbean countries, increased deployment of SWH can also improve grid reliability by reducing electricity demand.”

What’s more, using SWH can cut down on green house gas (GHG) emissions.

The report is perplexed at the fact that “despite similarities in national and economic conditions among most Caribbean countries, no other SWH markets in the region have approached the level of development and maturity of Barbados.”

Only st Lucia and Grenada have also come on board, though to a much lesser extent.

How to excite the interests of the rest including Trinidad and Tobago in expanding the use of RE via SWH as a first step, is the challenge.

Barbados has been offering fiscal incentives towards that end for decades, but there seems to have been little take-up on reliefs granted by the minister of finance Winston Dookeran in his 2010-2011 Trinidad and Tobago budget in which he offered SWH inducements relating to import duties, VAT rating and tax allowance.

Why has one country responded but not the other?

Could it be barriers to overcome are too formidable.

Among these are:
FINANCE. “Despite short pay-back periods for SWH in most Caribbean countries, high upfront and financing costs remain prohibitive.”

WEAK POLICY ENVIRONMENT. “Few countries have implemented specific policies to support SWH development.”

LACK OF PUBLIC AWARENESS. “While domestic SWH is ubiquitous in Barbados (80-90 per cent of homes) and generally included in all new home construction in the country, public awareness and acceptance on SWH is significantly lower in other Caribbean countries.”

SMALL AND FRAGMENTED SWH INDUSTRIES. “Since most Caribbean countries have low levels of deployment, there are relatively few installers and only a limited number of RE industry groups. There is also little domestic SWH manufacturing across the region outside of Barbados and St Lucia.”

David Renwick was awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 2008 for the development of energy journalism in Trinidad and Tobago. “

Renwick, David. “Renewable Energy Challenges.” Trinidad Express 2 Mar. 2016: n. pag. Print.