|Bold solutions needed to meet renewable power generation target |
Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, June 15 2017
Paying more for electricity during peak demand and charging more to customers who use high volumes of electricity, are two ways in which Dr Keron Niles thinks Government can incentivise the population to conserve energy and/ or switch to renewables; namely solar and wind.
“Our prowess in the energy sector has been a double-edged sword. It has promoted wide scale development of a domestic petrochemical industry, attracted commercial and manufacturing investors and has boosted the number of citizens gaining access to reliable and affordable electricity. It has also contributed to the inefficient allocation of resources; including financial resources. The current prices of electricity, water, state-owned transport, fuel and waste (for residential customers) are all distorted. We do not pay the true value of any of these commodities.
Quite naturally, we have no incentive to conserve or to be efficient.” Niles is Business Unit Manager of Research and Policy at the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB), Ministry of Planning and Development. He was speaking during day one of the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago’s Clean Energy Conference, held on June 8 and 9 at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, Mt Hope. The theme of the inaugural Clean Energy Conference was Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in a Hydrocarbon Economy.
Niles made it clear, however, that his recommendations on Renewables and Energy Efficiency were his own and did not necessarily reflect those of the other EDAB members.
He argued that bold solutions are needed if Government is to meet its target of ten percent renewable power generation by 2021. This will require the development around 150 MW of renewable energy resources; the re-introduction of a robust Nationwide Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Campaign coupled with an Energy Smart Exchange Programme.
Niles said this should be done via the re-introduction and execution of a public awareness campaign, designed to continuously supply the public with energy efficiency and energy conservation tips, recommendations and best practices through radio, TV, and print advertisements.
“This can be coupled with a programme to promote energy efficiency through an exchange of key energy inefficient household items for more energy efficient products such as ACs, water heaters, stoves (electric) and light bulbs. This initiative should be accompanied by robust energy certification/ labelling regime.” He cautioned that the campaign must, however, be supported by a policy framework that encourages conservation and efficiency.
Niles explained that this is where adjustments to the electricity rates, to reflect “the true price for the commodities we use”, would help to achieve this goal. He recommends: Implementation of a ti me-of-use tariff to increase Demand-Side Management at peak load periods. This will assist in evening out the grid’s load as much as possible; Implementing a surcharge, equivalent to the true cost of electricity production, to high volume residential and commercial customers; Appropriate revision and implementation of the tax incentives outlined in Finance Act No.13 of 2010 related to the conduct of energy audits, the operation of Energy Service Companies and the installation of energy efficient technologies - perhaps accompanied by mandatory periodical energy auditing for commercial (including hotels) and industrial manufacturing consumers; (In addition), the introduction of tax incentives to encourage the uptake of Industrial Energy Efficient technology; inclusive of provisions/incentives that encourage the use of waste heat and combined heat and power, should also be considered; and The introduction and enforcement of bans and/ or tax disincentives on the importation, purchase and use of inefficient technology are also necessary.
What about people who cannot afford to pay higher electricity rates? Niles called for a “strong safety net that provides support based on the needs of the vulnerable in our society.” Niles reflected that TT’s fortunes in the petroleum sector have contributed to “dependence upon a non-renewable resource and a lack of conscientious resource management. This needs to change, and it needs to change now.” “We have to create an enabling environment that promotes and encourages activities that are environmental sustainable, economically viable and social inclusive.
With respect to the energy sector, our focus must be on energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy - in that order.” “This does not mean that all three objectives cannot be pursued simultaneously but the proposed prioritisation helps to send a clear message that technology by itself, cannot and will not solve the problem we face. Behaviour change is necessary,” Niles declared.
Turning his attention to equally “bold solutions” in renewable energy, Niles said this sector has the potential to stimulate job creation, contribute to the creation of export-oriented industries and reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.
“However, we will not reap the full rewards of renewable energy if we do not use it efficiently and/or conserve when possible. That said, I also recognise that the current environment; where electricity prices have been artificially depressed, acts a disincentive to the acquisition of renewable energy devices. This should be corrected across every tariff bracket or as aforementioned, for high volume and commercial customers.” Niles thanked the Energy Chamber and the European Union for facilitating the conference, saying the issues raised were both timely and necessary.
“Sadly, however, most of the policy prescriptions mentioned in this address are not new ideas. With that in mind, though important, I would implore us all to move beyond talking about a clean energy transition and begin to make or lobby for the changes required to ensure a sustainable future for TT,” Niles stated.
ABOUT THE EDAB:
The EDAB is a Cabinet-appointed body that advises the Prime Minister on matters of economic policy, in order to spearhead the development of strategies and policies geared toward the implementation of an Economic Development
Framework for Trinidad and Tobago. Two of the primary tasks of the Board relate to:
1) Helping to shape the development plan for Trinidad and Tobago (TT) over the
next 15 years; and
2) Working to advance the diversification agenda.
One component of its work relates to a desirable future for TT and entails making recommendations related to a green economy transition, particularly as it pertains to policy changes that can reduce negative environmental impacts and enhance resource efficiency.
Five broad areas have been identified with respect to the development of policy recommendations, to support a green economy transition:
(i) Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation
(ii) Renewable Energy
(iii) Waste Management
(iv) Sustainable Transport; and
(v) Environmental Conservation including protected areas.