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.

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