Marketing Renewable Energy Consultancy in Trinidad & Tobago

Renewable Energy (RE) is once again at the forefront both locally and internationally with the recent display of two opposing views, one by the Prime Minster of Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) versus another by the President of the United States of America (USA).

The T&T Prime Minister, following his return from RE and Energy Efficiency (EE) conscious Chile, reaffirms his country’s commitment to the tenants of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, with specific objectives to be achieved via the reduction of the utilization of fossil fuels and the promotion of RE and EE. The American President, on the other hand, following his return from the recently concluded 2017 NATO summit in Belgium,  unexpectedly announced his country’s withdrawal from the same agreement.

With these political decisions fresh in our minds, it is worth noting that the success of any RE & EE related product or service introduced into a market is not only based on the political environment but also on the effectiveness of the marketing plan designed for its promotion.

The T&T RE Market in the past has been virtually non-existent with the present grid-connected RE sources accounting for less than 1% of all grid-connected generation. However, the prospects of the future RE market appear to be more favourable with the Government’s target of 10% Penetration of RE of the total forecasted Electricity Grid Capacity by 2021, specifically from Wind, Solar and Waste to Energy (WtE) technologies. It is expected that the Government will continue to take the lead in the local RE Market, with the implementation of fiscal incentives and amends the relevant legislations to allow for grid connection.

It is expected that the Government will continue to take the lead in the local RE Market, with the implementation of fiscal incentives and amendments to the relevant legislations for grid connection. However, there will still be room for the introduction of private sector investment in distributed renewable generation sources (DRGS), such as domestic Solar Photovoltaic and Wind Turbine generators as a further means to increase T&T’s energy security and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Although there is now a more optimistic outlook of the T&T RE Market, further considerations must be made to the fact that (i) the market is still in its Infant Stage and (ii) the cost of fossil based energy in T&T is relatively cheap at less than US$0.06/kWh for Residential Customers and even cheaper energy charges for Industrial Customers with an additional Demand (kVA) Charge. These low rates would result in DRGS having payback periods in excess of 9 years, which renders them less attractive. Thus, a more paternalistic approach to managing the introduction of DRGSs to T&T via the provision of consultancy as a service to all segments of the market for more optimally engineered solutions is required. This RE Consultancy Service must be marketed as a convenience to the customer where it is the consultant who would determine the optimal engineering design and specification solution to the DRGS application that is desired by the customer.

The effective marketing of RE Consultancy Services as a convenience for the customer is one of the pillars of roll out of DRGSs in T&T as it is essential for the removal of some of the existing barriers to entry the T&T RE Market. Even with the existing barriers to entry to the RE Consultancy Service T&T Market there are still a few RE Product Distributors that act as RE Consultants such as Smart Energy Ltd. and Solar Power Concepts Ltd. Thus the existing competitive landscape for RE Consultant Services is weak as there are just a few players who predominantly focus on Solar Technologies only. While the positioning of RE Consultancy Services should be one where the customer views engaging with a consultant before the initiating of any type RE Project solution being essential to its success.

In that same vein, the success of the RE Consultancy Service Company is based on the marketing plan effectively defining the market segments. Failure to effectively segment the T&T RE Market for opportunities would result in:

  • Marketing to customers who are less willing to pay the premium for RE Consultancy;
  • Providing only a limited range of initiatives to appeal to customers; and
  • Using unfocused marketing techniques

In addition to the typical criteria used to segment the market such as demographic, geographic, physiographic and product benefit criteria, the criteria should initially start with the RE type desired by the customer, followed by the maximum aggregate capacity of the DGRS into segments similar to the existing T&TEC Tariff Structure, for example:

  • Up to 5kW, for single phase, 3-wire, 115/230volt DGRS installations serviced under the Domestic and General Tariff (Rate A),
  • Up to 50kW, for single and three phase, 4-wire, 115/230volt DGRS installations serviced under the Commercial Tariff (Rate B),
  • 50kW to 200kW, for three phase, 4-wire 115/230volt DGRS installations serviced under the Industrial Tariff (Rate D1), and
  • Single DRGS with output greater than 200kW shall be installed for self-generation as stand-alone equipment which does not export to the Grid.

In the end, the effective marketing of RE Consultancy Services according to the specific market segments would help to mold the perception and attitude towards DGRSs and assist achieving nationwide adoption of RE.



Market Acceptance Challenges for Alternative Energy Projects in T&T

Alternative energy is high on the policy agenda in countries around the world and most governments have set ambitious targets and have implemented support schemes aimed at facilitating market acceptance. The same is true here in the Twin Island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, with the Government’s announcement in its 2016 fiscal budget of its intention to achieve 10% renewable energy (RE) penetration by 2021.

This equates to an extremely ambitious endeavour to realize of over 200 megawatts (MW) of RE in under five years, in light of the absence of the necessary amendments to the Trinidad & Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) Act, Chapter 54:70 and Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) Act, Chapter 54:73 to allow for open access to the national grid and with the present installed generation capacity at 1,994MW, peak system demand of 1,396MW and a 2021 forecasted peak demand of 2,044MW, would equate to an extremely challenging endeavour to realize of over 200MW of RE by 2021.

In spite of this, as a T&TEC Engineer, I still feel encouraged as at the end of 2016 that there were still some micro-scale RE projects already commissioned throughout T&T. Some of these include:

  • Hybrid Renewable Energy – 2.5kW Wind & 2.0kW Solar PV Power Projects at Islamic Home for Children, Gasparillo.
  • 2.2kW Solar PV at T&TEC, Mt. Hope.
  • 2.2kW Solar PV at UTT. O’Meara
  • Community Centre Solar PV Lighting RE Project at nine locations throughout T&T inclusive of North Manzanilla Eastern Main Road, Manzanilla and at Roystonia Caryota Drive, Couva North.
  • UTT Solar House at the UTT Pt. Lisas Energy Campus.
  • T&TEC Solar Powered Street Lights pilot project in Manzanilla.

In addition to this part of GORTT’s future RE Road Map includes the establishment of:

  • 5MW Solar PV Park at Piarco International Airport.
  • 1MW Waste to Energy (WtE) Plant at Beetham.
  • 10MW Wind Farm at Minister’s Bay, Tobago.
  • A 30MW distributed Solar PV Roof Top Residential Project at HDC Sites throughout T&T.

In T&T, the price of electricity for residential customers averages around US$0.06/kWh while the equivalent for the rest of the Caribbean is approximately US$0.34/kWh. This fact brings with it unique challenges to market acceptance of RE to T&T. Some of these marketing challenges include:

  • Lack of consumer awareness and understanding of RE projects leads to skepticism by the potential customers.
  • Existing small market size limits the type of market strategy that could be applied.
  • Past market failure in other Caribbean territories have lead T&T investors to be risk averse towards the T&T RE market.
  • Existing fossil fuel energy based “subsides” make RE unattractive due to its longer pay-back period as compared to other Caribbean countries.
  • Perceived “Oil Patrimony” by T&T citizens has resulted in citizens believing that they have the right to cheap energy regardless of the associated environmental issues.

Some of these barriers to entry to the T&T RE Market can be removed by:

  • Amending of the T&TEC Act and RIC Act to support renewable electricity grid integration.
  • Establishment of an incentivized Feed In Tariff (FIT) by the RIC.
  • Creation of an attractive Policy and Regulatory Frameworks by GORTT.
  • Easy access to financing (via grants for example).

These overarching issues can be addressed by partnering with RE Market Leaders with internationally accepted manufacturing, distribution and installation supply chains with the roll out of communications, advertising and public relation campaigns to create RE project awareness and brand loyalty. In the end the future of marketing RE must focus Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer theorem of “Ego to Eco” where the ultimate aim is to market RE so that society evolves from one of natural self-interest to one of shared interest of the eco-system.