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Tuesday 20 February 2018
Editorial

Green days ahead

It might seem hard to imagine. Solar power grids in fields all over the country, windmills punctuating the land, and hydroelectric power facilities all along the coast of Trinidad and Tobago.

Sounds like science fiction? Think again. Green energy is coming and, judging from statements made by Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte, it may be sooner than we think.

“Renewable sources of energy are the way forward,” Le Hunte said on Tuesday, speaking at the TT Energy Conference. He unveiled an ambitious Government policy to have ten per cent of our energy needs met from renewable sources by 2021. That’s three years away.

The proposal is as necessary as it is ambitious. Climate change has rendered our region vulnerable to unprecedented physical and economic shocks. While our own carbon emission output might be a drop in the bucket, our per capita emission rate has long been unacceptably high. And every little counts.

Furthermore, we cannot call on larger countries such as China and the United States to reduce their emissions while ours remains relatively high. The historic Paris Agreement, which this country has signed but not yet ratified, also provides a clear basis in public international law for action. We cannot shirk from our treaty duties.

The truth is renewable energy is also potentially a tremendous untapped market which we could be poised to benefit from. We should take the opportunity to get a foot in the door before we are left behind.

According to many solar energy lobbyists, with just one hour’s sunshine, mankind could collect enough energy to fuel the world for a year. While this claim has been challenged, at its heart it expresses the ultimate benefit of green energy: it is renewable.

Fossil fuels are running out. And the world’s population will reach 9.4 billion by 2050. We have little choice but to change our ways.

Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. We urge the Cabinet to devise and approve policies to monitor carbon emissions and to plan the way forward when it comes to the use of green energy.

It is also essential for the State to work with the private sector to jump-start investment. The suite of tax incentives which we have placed on the books to begin the process of changing habits is not sufficient.

Nor will it be enough to fund the estimated US$2 billion cost of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

There must be partnerships with business groups, inside and outside of the renewable energy sector, to ensure there is a strong market base.

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Editorial