Wednesday 8 July, 2020

Energy Minister slams 'misleading' editorial by political analyst

Energy Minister Franklin Khan has responded to an editorial in the Trinidad and Tobago Express he described as "uninformed" and "misleading". 

The report was written by political analyst Ralph Maraj titled "Never Again". Maraj had warned that the incoming government ought not to repeat the past mistakes of the last administration. This, as he lamented that the absence of proposed regulatory arrangements, investment incentives, targets, storage and the role of the national grid as it relates to renewable energy. Maraj also claimed the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Government into green energy.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Minister Khan said Maraj was not qualified to speak on the Government's renewable energy policy and denied that already implemented measures were a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic. 

He said it is widely known that the Government, in its very first Budget, set a target of 10% renewable energy power generation by 2021 under the Draft National Development Strategy 2016-2030 Vision 2030. 

The Energy Minister also noted that Trinidad and Tobago was a signatory to the Paris Agreement which was ratified in 2018 with a commitment to produce 10% power from renewable energy by 2021 and to reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent from industry, power generation and the transport sector by 2030. Khan said a renewable energy roadmap and implementation plan was also developed.

"From a policy perspective, key elements of the roadmap include the establishment of the Renewable Energy Division in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries in 2017 and in the near future the activation of a Feed-in-Tariff Policy Framework, Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Policy and an Integrated Resource and Resilience Plan for Trinidad and Tobago." 

The Minister further stated that in fiscal 2018 the Government sought the Expressions of Interest (EOI) from qualified developers with in-depth experience in renewable energy projects for the supply of up to 130 megawatts of electricity generation from Wind and/or Solar Photovoltaic (PV). Shell Trinidad and Tobago Limited, BP Alternative Energy Trinidad and Tobago Limited, and Lightsource Renewable Global Development Limited were the preferred bidders.

This was followed by a London meeting with the Prime Minister and BP's Chief Executive Officer Bernard Looney. The launch of the project was delayed by the Covid-19.

The release went on to note that in March 2020, Cabinet appointed an Inter-Agency Steering Committee (SC) to oversee the overall development and execution of this landmark project by March 2022. 

"Essentially, this Project will be the largest in the region, signalling a major game-changer with the rates being comparable with subsidized electricity rates. Other potential investments in clean energy for the near term include the installation of solar energy systems in public utilities and rural communities, which are to be funded by grant funds from the United Arab Emirates and the European Union."

As it relates to gas supply to downstream industries, the Minister said the Government inherited a situation where this was prevalent. 

"This Government was instrumental in achieving increased investment by upstream companies, which resulted in an improved gas supply from 3.3 billion cubic per day to the current average production of 3.6 billion cubic feet per day, with a positive outlook of 3. 9 billion cubic feet per day in 2021."

Khan said there are currently no shortages of natural gas as the previous issues have been resolved. A pipeline of upstream project to ensure that there is an adequate natural gas supply for all sectors in the short to medium term is also underway.

"Recently, a natural gas value chain study was initiated to develop a Natural Gas Master Plan 2030. The intent is to implement changes in the policies, structure, regulation and governance of the gas value chain in T&T, which sustains a strong gas industry while maximizing the value to the country from its gas resources, infrastructure and industries over a 10-year planning horizon to 2030."

"The closure of the plants except for Yara has been related to the international market dynamics in the methanol and ammonia industry.  In addition, the situation is seen to be a temporary one, with the plants to be restarted in the last quarter of 2020, once global demand picks up."

Meanwhile, the Energy Minister said the domestic petrochemical and export LNG market is a method of diversification in the industry that ensures the country has an alternate revenue stream to weather the volatility of the markets.

"All of these projects and initiatives was referenced by our Honourable Prime Minister during the recently concluded Energy Efficiency and Renewables Conference. However, it must be borne in mind that this is not a quick fix situation. It has to be a structured and timely process. Trinidad and Tobago generates 100% of its power from natural gas - the cleanest of fossil fuels.  The power producers (TGU, Trinity and Powergen) have take-or-pay contracts with T&TEC, which means that even though you don’t take the power produced, you have to pay. Because of this, the introduction of renewable energy has to be carefully phased into the national grid."

 

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