T&T Urgently Needs Renewable Energy Legislation

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

By Malique Wilson

Special To News Americas

News Americas, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Tues., July 9, 2024: The oil-rich, twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago currently stands at a critical juncture in its energy journey. Despite the myriad benefits of renewable energy highlighted globally, there are currently no adequate laws governing this vital sector in the country.

Windmills in Gibara, Cuba that generate up to 5.1 MW. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)

Presently, the country’s Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission Act, (T&TEC), Chapter 54:70, and the Regulated Industries Commission Act (RIC), Chapter 54:70, are the main legislative provisions governing electricity use. Despite the implementation of amendments to these acts, these amendments do not cater for the use of renewable energy throughout Trinidad & Tobago.

The implementation of renewable energy is not just a matter of environmental stewardship; it is a multi-faceted necessity that promises environmental, economic, social, and health benefits. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro power are essential in the fight against climate change. Transitioning to these clean energy sources is crucial for safeguarding the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for Trinidad and Tobago.

On a global and national level, adopting renewable energy is vital for meeting climate goals and adhering to international agreements such as the Paris Agreement. Supporting sustainable development through renewable energy is not just an environmental obligation, but also a pathway to global stability and resilience. Often, the T&T government has continuously engaged in discourse supporting energy centred initiatives aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change and the benefits of renewable energy but have been slow to effect any real action.

2010

 In 2010, Senator Dr. Adesh Nanan brought forward a private motion advocating for the use of renewable energy in government buildings. Fourteen years later, significant strides remain to be made in facilitating this crucial energy transition. Additionally, policies such as the “Framework for Development of a Renewable Energy Policy for Trinidad & Tobago,” “The Roadmap for a Green Hydrogen Economy in Trinidad & Tobago” and “A Unique Approach for Sustainable energy in Trinidad and Tobago” have also served as comprehensive documents that are highly informative on renewable energy and its potential. These documents propose several solutions for the implementation of renewable energy throughout the country. However, the lack of legislative provisions continues to be a main barrier, and though the government has made some attempts, such as installing two electric vehicle charging stations throughout the country, and have commissioned a wind resource assessment program, the lack of comprehensive legislation continues to hinder substantial progress.

2021

Senator Franklin Khan, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries at the Energy Chamber’s Energy Efficiency and Renewables Virtual Conference 2021, highlighted the impending introduction of feed in tariffs which allow for the introduction of economic incentives to persons to install solar PV systems at their homes and businesses. It also would allow for arenewable energy producer to access a guaranteed payment rate for electricity produced or exported to the grid. He noted that an Inter-Agency team lead by the Ministry was in the process of finalizing a feed in tariff policy which would inform legislative amendments to the T&TEC Act and RIC Act as previously mentioned. As can be seen countless times, this has not been at the forefront and as such in 2024 no legislative amendments had been made. Separate and apart is the inability of households to export electricity back to the grid and this is as a direct consequence to the RIC and T & TEC Acts lacking the requisite provisions to allow for such. The feed in tariff policy dates back to its introduction in 2011 and had been sent to the legislative review committee in 2017.Consequently, a vast thirteen years after its introduction, the policy has not materialised.

2023

In January 2023, at T & T’s Energy Conference, the Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, mentioned that the feed in tariff policy was under review by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and would subsequently be brought before the cabinet. A year-and-a-half has passed since this statement was made and there has been no update given to the public on the progress of this significant policy.

2024

Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, Stuart Young, indicated at the Energy Chamber’s sustainable Energy Conference, that the ministry is seeking private investors to indicate interest in the pending renewable energy industry in Trinidad. Investments are being sought particularly for vacant state lands to be used for solar utility-scale projects. Though forward-thinking and crucial to T & T’s Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals, it is preposterous to invite the private sector to invest in the energy industry when there are no regulations or legislative provisions governing the sector.

Added to this, the government has implemented fiscal support mechanisms such as tax credits, wear and tear allowances, import duty exemptions and 0-rating for VAT purposes. Though commendable, it is useless to utilize these measures if no legislation governing the industry exists.

Though contradictory, at COP 28, many SIDS championed for the acceleration of work towards changes in country’s approaches to dealing with carbon emissions. In a similar manner, most countries pledged to reduce their emissions but have not yet met these goals. This indicates a lack of seriousness by governments to act now before it is too late – and unfortunately SIDS are left to experience the brunt of the effects. 

On the other hand, Minister of Energy and Energy Industries, Stuart Young, has indicated that Cabinet has approved plans to introduce wind energy to the electricity grid. Though a meritorious initiative, it begs the question as to how this new energy source will be regulated in an unregulated industry. According to an article in The Guardian newspaper by Erik Lavoie, the Regulated Industries Commission noted that “a lack of necessary legislation and high upfront costs are significant barriers to rooftop solar adoption.”

The absence of renewable energy legislation presents several challenges. Investment and financing are hampered by the lack of clear policies and incentives, such as tax credits and subsidies, making renewable energy projects less attractive compared to fossil fuels. Grid integration is problematic without standards and regulations to ensure stability, and environmental impacts from renewable projects need to be managed sustainably through legislative frameworks.

The lack of legislation regulating the implementation of renewable energy contradicts the country’s seven sustainable development goals by 2030. Without legislation none of these goals can truly be accomplished in their entirety as the energy industry is interlinked and several key components are interdependent on each other for their success. Separate and apart from the absence of legislation, another barrier to the successful implementation of renewable energy relates to subsidized domestic energy prices.

Despite the absence of legislation, the government has sought to implement fiscal support mechanisms, education and training initiatives and educational programs to promote the benefits of renewable energy. Of particular importance are these measures that have been implemented despite no legislative provisions to govern the industry.

Legislation can level the playing field by establishing mechanisms like carbon pricing, promoting the growth of renewables. Without legislative support, technological advancements in renewable energy also suffer. Government policies often fund research and development, and the absence of such support slows innovation. Standards and certification for new technologies are also dependent on legislative backing. Effective coordination between the public and private sectors is essential for a coherent renewable energy strategy. Legislation ensures this collaboration and as such must be implemented. Legislation also supports public awareness initiatives, fostering support for the renewable transition.

Meeting climate goals is challenging without legal frameworks to set and enforce emissions targets. Legislation mandates monitoring and reporting, ensuring transparency and accountability in climate commitments.

As Trinidad and Tobago faces the future, the need for renewable energy legislation has never been more urgent. Such laws are essential to unlocking the environmental, economic, social, and health benefits that renewable energy promises. By establishing a robust legal framework, Trinidad and Tobago can ensure a sustainable, healthy, and economically robust future for all its citizens.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Malique Wilson is a Garvey-Nkurmah 2024 Fellow and summer extern at ICN/Invest Caribbean as well as a UWISTAT Ambassador – 2022-2024.

Save 50.0% on select products from HCYJkluc with promo code 50MBLHAJ, through 7/14 while supplies last.