The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis
Minister of Planning and Development
“Energy Efficiency for a Greener World with LED Lighting”
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Tuesday 24th April, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an absolute pleasure for me to be here with you today at the beginning of your seminar that examines the importance and impact of new lighting technology on this country’s energy consumption levels, and our ability to develop sustainable energy projects, while simultaneously fulfilling our mandate to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
Today’s seminar comes at a very opportune time in this country’s history, especially as we seek to make do with less. The old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true across the ages, as we seek to reduce our domestic energy consumption and shift it towards the bolstering of our more productive capacity. The simple fact is that the less electricity TTEC has to send to our homes, the more electricity that becomes available on the national grid for the country’s income generating petrochemical, industrial and manufacturing sectors.
The truth is that given our abundant domestic fossil fuel resources, Trinidad and Tobago has historically demonstrated limited economic motivation to explore and expand renewable energy generation. The blessing of our natural resources has turned out to be a double edged sword for us in many respects, for the subsidization of petroleum fuel over the years significantly undermined the economic case for renewables while simultaneously creating a tremendous financial burden on the national purse.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that in a very real sense we have been spoilt as a country, in terms of our electricity usage. Trinidad and Tobago’s electricity rates are some of the lowest in the Caribbean, approximating some four (4) cents per kilowatt, compared to the regional average of thirty three (33) cents.
And while it is true that Trinidad and Tobago has significant oil and natural gas reserves and is a net exporter of these fuels, subsidies for domestic energy consumption have created a fiscal burden on the government that could be reduced through the expansion of alternative transportation fuels, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Therein, ladies and gentlemen, lie the importance of your intervention today.
This Government’s interest in supporting renewable energy and energy efficiency is increasing though, for the multiple purposes of addressing climate change, developing new economic sectors, and reducing the government’s fuel subsidy liabilities.
The Government has articulated in its draft National Development Strategy, also known as Vision 2030, a desire to establish the enabling environment that would facilitate the use of renewable energy for power generation. As it stands, the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission is currently challenged by competing uses for limited natural gas supplies in its power generation operations. Additionally, the Government has committed to increasing input to the energy supply using renewables by up to 10 percent by 2021.
Given this shift to adopt cleaner technologies and the increasing emphasis on reducing emissions from power generation, focus must now be placed on adopting greener technologies for long term sustainability. The Commission has therefore been challenged to adopt measures that would lead to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources in generating electricity.
The development of LED technology and the proliferation of its use could not come therefore at a more opportune time. Not only does its use allow us to conserve more electricity, it also allows us to achieve another goal, that of becoming more responsible stewards of our environment, and reducing the quantum of our carbon emissions.
I know I am preaching to the choir today about the environmental advantages to be derived from the use of LED lighting, but it bears repeating. It is said to be more than 80% more efficient than traditional lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights, with 95% of its energy converted to light and only 5% wasted on heat. Less energy use therefore reduces the demand placed on our power plants and simultaneously decreases greenhouse gas emissions.
LED lights are not known to contain toxic elements. A cursory walk through most offices in both the private and public sectors will reveal an abundant use of fluorescent strip lights. These have been known to contain small amounts of mercury which will contaminate the environment if improperly disposed at our already burdened landfill sites. Switching to LED will assist companies in reducing not only their electricity consumption costs, but also the cost and time implications required for proper disposal, as well as replacement costs.
I am advised as well that because LEDs have a better quality of light distribution and focus light in one direction as opposed to other types of lighting which waste energy by emitting light in all directions, less LED lights are needed to achieve the same level of brightness given off by fluorescents and incandescent lights. Fewer lights will reduce energy consumption and will therefore be a benefit to the environment.
Additionally, the longer life span of LED lights automatically translates into lower carbon emissions. LED lights have been proven to last up to six times longer than other types of lights, thereby reducing the requirement for frequent replacements. This results in using fewer lights and hence fewer resources are needed for manufacturing processes, packaging materials and transportation.
Ladies and gentlemen, if this information doesn’t propel us in Trinidad and Tobago to do what is necessary to quickly change our electricity usage habits, I am not sure what will. As we speak, market penetration worldwide for LED lighting continues to go from strength to strength.
According to a 2012 report on the global lighting market by McKinsey and Company, forecasts for LED uptake in the residential segment remained high at almost 50% in 2016 and over 70% in 2020. With this rapid growth, fuelled by a reduction in unit prices and a requirement for energy efficient technology, this can only be good news for the environment. As the LEDs sap far less energy when lighting up our homes, this is not only beneficial to the planet but to our pockets too.
Ladies and gentlemen, notwithstanding Trinidad and Tobago’s abundant local but non-renewable fossil fuel resources, the Government is taking steps to prepare the societal, legal, regulatory, and economic foundations necessary to support renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. By partnering with international groups such as United Nations Environmental Programme, assessing potential wind resources, and increasing public awareness the government is positioning the country for a more diverse and environmentally sustainable energy system. A policy and regulatory environment in which alternative fuels, efficiency, and renewable energy can thrive could reduce financial burdens on the government, preserve the economic value of domestic energy reserves, and spur the creation of a domestic clean energy economy.
In this regard, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to report that Trinidad and Tobago is the first CARICOM state and the third member of the Small Island Developing States (SIDs) to submit its unconditional commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by December 2030 in the public transportation sector. We have resolved to reduce this country’s cumulative public transportation greenhouse gas emissions by 30% or 1,700,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents compared to 2013 levels by December 31, 2030.
As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement, Trinidad and Tobago is also committed to conditionally reduce its cumulative carbon emissions by 15% in the power generation, transport and industrialised sectors by 2030, which is equivalent to 103 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The estimated cost of meeting this objective is US$2 billion, which is expected to be met partly through domestic funding and conditional on international financing including through the Green Climate Fund.
It is therefore into this framework that the significance of today’s seminar is located. There can be no better time then, for a national discussion on the benefits we can derive from the prolific usage of LED lighting as a means to significantly reduce our electricity consumption, promote sustainable development and reduce our carbon footprint. The effect of this, as I have demonstrated, brings benefits to all sectors of the national population and local economy, and therefore I offer my sincerest commendation to Target Solutions Limited for their foresight and initiative in bringing this seminar to fruition.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, says the age old proverb. Today, I applaud you as you take these initial steps. I wish you God’s richest blessings and pray that you have a very productive and rewarding seminar. May God bless you all, and may God bless our nation.