Tricky transition

Trinidad and Tobago has vowed to reduce its carbon footprint but it won’t be easy as fossil fuels are essential to the country’s economy. Prime Minister Keith Rowley stated earlier this year that he sees no conflict in developing hydrocarbons and renewables as part of a ‘pragmatic’ approach to the country’s energy transition. “We have set in train steps to optimise the exploitation of our oil and has resources, while mitigating the emission of greenhouse gases and adopting low carbon solutions.”

The country recently welcomed the first onshore natural gas production to come onstream in more than 20 years. It is expecting to bring on stream several gas companies to include Shell’s Manatee Field and BP’s Calypso project. At the same time, it is moving forward with initiatives that are crucial to the energy transition, including the electrification of transport, renewable energy projects, carbon capture, utilisation and storage, carbon offsets, and exploration of hydrogen energy development.

“Trinidad and Tobago is trying to reduce its carbon footprint by 15% of the carbon dioxide by 2030,” explained a government official, “we have signed on to the Paris Sustainable Development goals, and it is in our 2030 vision plan. We are looking at initiatives in power generation, the transportation sector, and the industrial sector.” An executive at an energy services business was not convinced, “The government talks about decarbonization but their proposed solutions are based on technologies that are still unproven at scale: carbon sequestration and green hydrogen generation.”

“The government talks about decarbonization but their proposed solutions are based on technologies that are still unproven at scale.”

Executive, energy services business, Trinidad & Tobago

Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s optimism or the consultants view on technology, Trinidad and Tobago’s energy transition will not be straight-forward from an economic perspective. Oil and gas tax revenues are vital for the country and new technologies require substantial investment. So, it is not surprising that the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries is conducting a review of the country’s oil and gas taxation regime.

“A commitment was made in 2015 to generate 10% of the country’s energy by solar but this seems to have disappeared with no accountability.”

Energy consultant, Trinidad & Tobago

An energy consultant in Trinidad outlined the complexity of managing a transition, “A commitment was made in 2015 to generate 10% of the country’s energy by solar but this seems to have disappeared with no accountability. The problem is that the economics don’t work, we have significant contractual arrangements with the gas generating power companies. And if we were to put in a big solar project, we would still be paying for the capacity and while we subsidise solar we still need the same amount of traditional gas power generation because there’s no storage component to the solar project.”

Speaking at the Energy Chamber’s Caribbean Sustainable Energy Conference, Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development of Trinidad and Tobago, said that the government was planning to diversify its economy through climate investment to achieve its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Robinson-Regis said that, as an oil and gas-based carbon intensive economy, Trinidad and Tobago must implement policies that mitigate social and economic disruption from its expected low-carbon transition.

Aware of the importance of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is taking additional steps to support long-term economic growth to tackle climate change, nature loss, and pollution. With a long-term perspective to align the country to the Paris Agreements, the Ministry of Planning and Development is currently revising the National Climate Change Policy to implement an investment plan to promote renewable energy, reduce private transportation, and fund domestic green and blue economy plans, the estimated cost of which will be USD 2 billion.

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