HSSE 2020 - Feature Address by The Honourable Marvin Gonzales - Minister of Public Utilities

Theme: Resilience in the Context of Updates on the Energy Efficiency Policy, Tariff Policy and the Renewable Energy Policy.

Good morning.

It is indeed a pleasure and an honour to share with you some thoughts on Resilience and the building of sustainable energy futures from the perspective of the Public Utilities Sector.

But first, I must commend the American Chamber of Commerce for their willingness to engage with an issue that impacts every aspect and every level of the global community – from households to multi-national corporations, and from remote rural areas to teeming cities.

There can be no doubt that civilization, as we know it, is undergoing a great sea-change on a number of fronts. In the face of these developments, resilience is essential, along with strategic ways of mitigating their impact. One such development – Climate change – requires not just mitigation but systemic change across the board and at all levels, specifically in relation to the ways in which we harness and utilise energy.

For hundreds of years, mankind has had a love affair with fossil fuels. And understandably so! Coal, and then oil and gas, along with their downstream industries, have literally driven the global economy. As in all relationships, however, we have to, at some point, take stock of where we are. And in the case of fossil fuels, it is obvious that we cannot continue to sustain our relationship without doing irreparable damage to ourselves and to the planet that we call home.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, the words efficiency and conservation have been used with increasing frequency over the past few years. Government has realised that despite our unique position as an oil and gas-producing country, the sustainable use of our energy resources is the first step in the journey towards a sustainable and resilient energy future.

And we are not the only ones to come to this realisation. Many countries are individually and collectively taking systematic steps to reimagine and reshape their relationship with fossil fuels. They are actively adopting energy efficient and energy conservation initiatives and attempting to inculcate it into their daily lives. Here are some ways in which they are doing that:

1. In over 21 countries, energy utility obligation programmes have been established, mandating energy companies to adopt energy saving targets within a certain timeframe.

2. In the European Union, India, the United States, China and Australia, grants and tax relief dominate fiscal mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency activities.

3. With regards to buildings, India’s Energy Conservation Building Code mandates that new buildings must illustrate energy savings of 25% to be code-compliant. And the United Kingdom Clean Growth Strategy focuses on measures to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings and industry by a minimum of 20% by 2030.

Even our regional neighbours have joined the global thrust to become more energy efficient. Brazil created a division within its national utility, called PROCEL, expressly for the purpose of focusing on energy efficiency. And in 2002, the country created an incentive program for renewable energy aimed at stimulating the development of wind, biomass and small hydro plants along with energy efficient projects within the country.

Meanwhile Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama have all established laws meant to promote and encourage greater energy efficiency among consumers.

On the local front, government, through the Ministry of Public Utilities and T&TEC is also promoting and facilitating energy conservation and energy efficiency.

In May of last year, Cabinet appointed an Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency (EC&EE) Inter-ministerial Committee, to develop an EC&EE Policy and Action Plan. That Plan, once implemented would lead the way towards reducing Trinidad and Tobago’s energy consumption.

In its fiscal 2020 budget, the Government announced several initiatives in support of the EC&EE Policy and Action Plan, which covers a five-year period. And in fiscal 2021, Government further allocated financial support for 2 more initiatives. I will now outline some of these projects, which are in various phases of implementation.

1. The LED Lightbulb Distribution Programme and T&TEC’s Energy Management Application were launched just last month. The distribution programme involved the procurement and distribution of 1.6Million LED lightbulbs to be distributed to T&TEC’s 400,000 residential customers. While T&TEC’s Energy Management Application will assist households in managing their electricity consumption. Both initiatives are meant to increase public awareness around the issues of electricity conservation while providing consumers with concrete tools and strategies to enact change in their electricity consumption.

2. As announced in the 2020 National Budget, the MPU is facilitating a Level One Energy Audit and Retrofit of Tower C, at the International Waterfront; this project is nearing completion and was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. The newly retrofitted building will improve energy management and reduce electricity consumption at Tower C.

3. The country is also presently in discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS) to promote and use the Caribbean Renewable Energy and Efficiency building construction (CREEBC) codes in new construction. These standards, which will cover both residential and commercial construction, will increase adoption rates of more effectual technologies for renewable energy and energy conservation.

And as Mr. Deryck Omar, CEO of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), noted, their adoption will “go a long way toward allowing [CARICOM member states] … to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate.”

He continued to say that “it also demonstrates the importance of bringing quality measures into the region’s energy sector and the potential benefits that can accrue when that happens.”

4. As important as these measures are, Government understands the importance of long-term planning and implementation. And as such, has mandated the development of an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan (IRRP) for the electricity sector of Trinidad and Tobago.

That initiative, funded by the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, will guide decision-making on the appropriate electricity mix for Trinidad and Tobago over the next 25 years. The IRRP will be completed by 2022.

5. It should be noted that Government’s position on Utility Scale is 10% RE by 2021and 30% by 2030. To this end, we are currently facilitating the implementation of a 112 MW Utility Scale Solar Project, which will add to the overall energy generation capacity.

6. Other initiatives include:

  • The Construction of a 1.4MW Solar Plant at Piarco International Airport funded by the European Union International Civil Aviation Organisation; and
  • The Construction of a Solar Covered Car port and three Level 2 Electric Vehicle charging stations, funded by the United Arab Emirates Caribbean Renewable Energy Fund.

To facilitate the proper integration of these and other renewable energy sources into the energy mix, a Feed-In Tariff Policy must be developed and implemented.

The Ministry of Public Utilities is currently on an inter-ministerial Committee (chaired by the Ministry of Energy) to implement a Feed- In Tariff Policy to promote the integration of Renewable Energy sources of power into the national electricity grid. That committee will soon be finalising the policy.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Utilities is progressing the required legislation to facilitate residential and commercial uptake of RE via the feed-in tariff.

All of these initiatives fall under the umbrella of a wholistic climate change agenda. That agenda, guided by the National Climate Change Policy, sets up the enabling administrative framework for addressing climate change in Trinidad and Tobago, both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

The Ministry of Planning and Development, through its Multilateral Environmental Agreements Unit, is responsible for coordinating the implementation of that policy and agenda.

An important aspect of that agenda was the development of a Carbon Reduction Strategy (CRS) in 2015. The CRS informs the reader on the measurement of Carbon Emissions from the business as usual (BAU) scenarios in the power generation, the industrial and the transportation sectors of T&T.

That Carbon Reduction Strategy was used to develop the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of T&T, wherein the country committed to a 15% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030, conditional upon leveraging international climate finance. It is noted that the NDC was ratified in 2018 as T&T’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.

The Carbon Reduction Strategy also contains projections of carbon emissions up to 2040 for both conservative and optimistic scenarios in the same three sectors.

A suite of mitigation actions was studied and proposed for the reduction of greenhouse gases in those sectors. I have already drawn reference to some of these actions, since they are already being implemented.

Others include:

  • The finalization of a Financial Investment Plan for NDC implementation which outlines financing opportunities for T&T.
  • The development of a public awareness plan for renewable energy
  • The development of a standard for electric vehicle chargers
  • The deployment of electric vehicle charging stations with renewable energy
  • The development of a National Climate Change Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) System. This will facilitate the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and the tracking of mitigation actions, NDC implementation and resources utilized.

Mitigating the effects of climate change is one thing, adapting to it is another. To this end, T&T is using a customized Climate Change Adaptation approach which allows identification of intervention measures in the short to medium term. It also enables the revisiting of these measures based on T&T’s exposure to climate risks.

Climate Change Adaptation Measures currently being implemented by Trinidad and Tobago involve the completion of a climate risk vulnerability and capacity assessment for all sectors in Trinidad and Tobago. This includes:

  • Incorporating identified climate risks in the various sectors;
  • mapping of vulnerable areas;
  • Addressing climate risks activities in the agricultural and water sectors with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); and
  • A pilot project to increase the climate resilience of the Toco Health Centre wherein a solar system is to be installed and an upgrade to the sewer system is to be implemented using a rainwater harvesting system. (This pilot is to ensure that the Centre can operate and offer basic health care in the event of a climate related disaster).

As you can see, from the plans, strategies and initiatives that I have laid out before you, our approach to climate change and its causes is as wide as it is deep. And it encompasses all of the sectors and levels of the national community, including of course, the commercial sector.

We value your support as we move forward with this national thrust.

Our survival and success depend on everyone working together towards the common goal of a resilient national community fuelled by a sustainable energy sector. Together, we can do it!

I thank you for your time and attention and wish you all a successful and productive exhibition.

HSSE 2020 - Sponsor Remarks by Dr Philip Mshelbila
AMCHAM T&T HSSE Conference & Exhibition 2020