Dr Curtis Boodoo was clear and direct when he spoke at the Energy Chamber’s Conference on Energy Efficiency and Renewables. Government should curtail its investment in compressed natural gas (CNG) in favour of electric vehicles.
TT has long had an advantage in a ready supply of CNG, and while that supply has proven unreliable in export quantities recently, it remains a cheap energy option. The hard question that Government really needs to be asking itself is whether the considerable effort it has put into CNG installation and refill stations has been worth it.
In an effort to jumpstart adoption, NGC offered to sponsor the conversion of 1,000 maxi-taxis and taxis to CNG in October 2018. The company would underwrite the first $12,000 of the cost of the conversion, following on what it described as a “highly successful” venture earlier that year which sponsored the cost of conversion for 500 taxis and 180 maxi-taxis.
The government must do the hard calculations that balance the faltering CNG effort against the value of increasing this country’s capacity to generate electricity for transport.
Wind, waves and solar generation options will fall short of the energy potential of oil and natural gas for some time to come, but it’s for the future that this country needs to be shaping its plans and as we descend the bell curve of petro-sector profitability, we must use our resources to become the architects of a clean and sustainable energy future for this country.
The long and sustained effort to introduce CNG as a cleaner burning, cheaper to refill alternative to gasoline simply hasn’t found widespread adoption, and the ready availability of supply for NGC, the primary champion of its use, begins to seem like a company with a handy and underutilised hammer trying to encourage the wider use of nails.
The first vehicle converted to use CNG drove Prime Minister George Chambers around in 1985. NGC has been trying to encourage wider use since 2014 as a way to reduce energy subsidies for fuel by subsidising its use.
That hasn’t worked particularly well and is likely to remain the business model for some time.
The number of factory-designed CNG vehicles is a tiny fraction of the numbers being produced to run on electricity, and all the development money is going into increasingly sophisticated and reliable electric vehicles. Thirty-four years is long enough. TT won’t be the CNG transport outlier.
It’s time to start engineering our local transport energy efforts to back the horse that’s striding ahead in this race and it won’t be the one dragging a CNG tank around behind it.