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Tuesday 10 December 2019
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TT not too late

Le Hunte, Driver sees hope in conservation

Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte.
Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte.

Efficiency and conservation must become TT's watchwords.

Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte made this call as he addressed the Energy Chamber's 2019 Renewable Energy Conference, Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's, last Monday.

He opined that these are two words which have not been assimilated "into our psyche and consciousness." Because of this, Le Hunte said, "They do not drive our behaviour."

Many countries have moved ahead of TT in energy conservation, he observed, such as India which has a building code that mandates all new buildings must have 25 per cent energy savings to be compliant.

The United States, China and Australia also have fiscal mechanisms to encourage energy efficiency activities, he noted.

Let Hunte attributed TT being "late to the dance" on energy conservation because of its "God-given natural resources and apathy on our part." Explaining, he said, since the 1970s, TT's focus has been on increasing demand for natural gas for the population's benefit. One of the results was TT being among the first countries to fuel its electricity production only on natural gas.

However, several factors, including depleting natural gas reserves, has caused TT to reach an inflection point where the country must "shift our focus to conservation and sustainable use of these resources."

Le Hunte said his ministry is talking with several multi-lateral agencies to initiate projects geared towards greater energy efficiency and conservation. One of these involves the retrofitting of a government building with energy saving light bulbs.

Le Hunte said TTEC is also involved in energy conservation by switching older lights on the national grid with LED lighting. The Arima Promenade and the Manzanilla/Mayaro Road are among the places where this has happened.

Le Hunte said if ten per cent of the natural gas TT uses is conserved, TTEC would save $100 million per annum, and should the gas be sold on the international market, the country could earn an additional $300 million.

Cabinet has appointed a committee to develop a national energy conservation and energy efficiency action plan which, Le Hunte said, has three months to complete its work.

This was welcome news for Energy Chamber president and CEO Dr Thackwray Driver, who. In his address, said the increased interest in renewable energy has as much to do with business as it does with environmental conservation.

He too observed that since the 1970s to 2010, the energy industry was about creating increasing demand to allow TT to monetise its natural gas.

But the constrained gas setting TT now finds itself in, Driver said, means every molecule of natural gas has to be used wisely as opposed to maximisation. He explained this meant finding alternative ways to generate the energy "we need to run our economy."

Driver recalled that the chamber launched its energy efficiency declaration, earlier this year, which more than 50 companies signed, committing themselves to improving energy use in their operations and to report on the changes they have made.

Like the minister, Driver felt that while TT lags behind the rest of the Caribbean in energy conservation, "we have the potential to advance quickly, if we make the right choices."

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