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A path of wind and solar

By Ravi R. Dolsingh, Danish Consul General (Hon.) Thursday, January 5 2017

Modern life is unimaginable without electricity.

It powers our homes, offices, cell phones, tablets and TVs to name a few.

Currently, fossils fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) account for roughly 67 percent of electricity generation worldwide.

According to the International Energy Outlook 2016 report, by 2040 it is expected that renewable energy will account for an equal share (28 percent-29 percent) of electricity generation to that of coal and natural gas globally.

So why the big deal about renewable energy when Trinidad and Tobago has oil and natural gas?

The concern is that fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are a finite resource which will eventually be depleted, as the rate at which these resources are being consumed, far exceeds the rate at which fossil fuels are being produced, which as we all know, takes thousands of years.

In addition, the extraction of oil and natural gas are both costly and dangerous which will become increasingly so as oil operators search for new oil and gas fields in more remote areas around the globe.

Renewable Energy on the other hand, is generated from natural resources such as the sun (solar) and wind which occur naturally and are therefore easy to find, constantly replenished and more importantly will never run out.

Equally important is the fact that wind and solar energy are essentially a clean type of energy especially compared to fossil fuels which negatively impact on our health and the environment, as recently seen in the Gulf of Paria and are a major contributor towards climate change.

Looking towards the future, profits cannot be our only goal and should not be achieved at the expense of the environment and our health.

As a nation, we need to be cognisant of the fact that oil and gas are limited resources which will eventually run out. Then what?

Whether it be this generation or the next, why wait when we can change our path now, knowing what lies ahead.

Would it not be prudent to remove our dependency on fossil fuels as a finite source of electricity (and revenue for that matter) and over time, transition towards solar and wind energy?

Trinidad and Tobago is blessed with sunny skies and strong winds, which can provide a constantly replenished energy resource supply which has the potential to provide all the country’s electricity needs.

No one is disputing that there won’t be challenges in setting up renewable energy sources, such as sizeable start-up costs combined with limited land space for example.

But with the advancement in technology, start-up costs in solar and wind power continue to steadily decline and are projected to drop even further with these type of energy resources becoming more efficient by the day.

For example, the average price of a solar panel has dropped almost 60% since 2011 while the cost of generating electricity from wind has dropped more than 20% between 2010 and 2012 and more than 80 percent since 1980.

From an economic point of view, solar power plants and wind farm ventures represent a great opportunity for investors, more so when supported by Government and tax incentives, and would lead to job creation in the manufacturing, construction, and service and development sectors thereby stimulating the economy.

A good example of this is in United States where in 2011, the wind energy industry directly provided 75,000 jobs in a variety of capacities including manufacturing, project development, construction, operations and maintenance, transportation, financial and legal services.

Another advantage of developing renewable energy resources, is that it would guarantee energy price stability and security as compared to fossil fuel prices which are prone to substantial price swings on the global commodities market as currently being experienced.

Denmark was at one time heavily dependent on imported energy, primarily oil from the Middle East. Since the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Denmark set up a national energy system which has become more reliant on renewable energy resources such as wind, which now accounts for 40 percent of Denmark’s energy supply. This has resulted in other countries looking to Denmark for inspiration and cooperation as they too move towards renewable energy, with Denmark establishing itself as a world leader in wind energy.

It is also worth noting that Denmark expects to become completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050, and while moving towards this target, is also able to generate revenue from selling excess electricity it has produced to neighbouring countries from the wind industry which accounted for 5.2 percent of total Danish export in 2014.

It is heartening to know that the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is currently exploring the use of renewable energy, and the Royal Danish Consulate in Trinidad and Tobago stands willing and able to assist in any capacity, to guarantee the future for generations to come.

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