A shift to sustainable energy in Trinidad Vernon-PALTOO

In the last few years, we have focused on developing an industry geared towards decarbonisation of the energy sector.


A shift to sustainable energy in Trinidad and Tobago

February 3, 2023

Vernon Paltoo, president of National Energy Corporation, talks to The Energy Year about developing a sustainable energy industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

How would you describe National Energy’s key focus?
We have been in a planning process with a focus on the future of the country being less reliant on gas, given the finite supplies. We are geared towards sustainability in the future by moving away from traditional gas into the development of a sustainable industry with lower-to-no utilisation of natural gas. In the last few years, we have focused on developing an industry geared towards decarbonisation of the energy sector.

What approach are you taking to developing a sustainable energy industry in Trinidad and Tobago?
Our three segments of sustainability are renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon industries. In the aspect of renewable energy, we have installed solar-power systems on behalf of the government in schools and community centres and are now working on larger projects such as a 100-kW system with 320 panels which was installed on a new fuel station in Preysal.
We are also working on Project Lara, which is a 112-MW utility-scale solar PV project that will be located on two separate sites at Brechin Castle and Orange Grove. We are actively facilitating that project and assessing the opportunity to take equity in it on behalf of the government. Project Lara was expected to reach a final investment decision before the end of 2022, and construction is expected to begin in 2023.
In terms of energy efficiency, we have received approval to launch the Super ESCO [energy service company] project, which is an energy efficiency drive. In concept, it is National Energy overseeing the energy audits of a large variety of industrial and commercial entities to then assess how we can reduce energy usage, improve efficiency and reduce emissions. We have secured approval to do a pilot plant project in 2023 and we shall be using this to develop a full-scale national programme.
With regards to the third segment, decarbonisation, we have worked with the IDB [Inter-American Development Bank] on studies to create a roadmap for a green hydrogen economy for Trinidad and Tobago. It was launched in November 2022 by the government, together with the IDB and us. It outlines a conceptual plan to use renewable energy, blue hydrogen and eventually green hydrogen. It is focused on offshore wind as a renewable resource.
This is based on the fact that the amount of renewable energy power that is required to drive the entire energy industry in Trinidad cannot be generated with solar power alone because of our limited land space.


What efforts are being made toward sustainability at National Energy’s port operations?
We operate marine and logistics facilities at three locations: Galeota, Point Lisas and Brighton. In keeping with our mandate, our next step is to create a sustainability plan to transform Galeota into a low-carbon port. In this regard, we are scheduled to take delivery of our largest tug to date, a 60-tonne bollard pull ASD vessel. It’s a tier-three vessel, which is best in class from a country perspective, meaning there would be an 80% reduction in nitrous oxides emissions.
We think it’s useful that we set the tone for the future and the market from an operational point of view by deploying vessels that exceed current local emission requirements.

What potential do you see in greener bunkering fuels?
We are currently doing an assessment with Methanex on using methanol as an alternative bunker fuel. Regarding marine fuels and decarbonisation of the marine industry, we see National Energy playing a pivotal role, given our unique and integrated place in the energy sector.

How does education play a significant role in decarbonisation efforts?
The only way to achieve a future decarbonised state as a country is to ensure that the entire population is part of the process and change. That starts from early childhood education, so we have embarked on several significant projects such as our Renewable Minds project with Pennacool, which targets primary school students to promote understanding of the importance of a low-carbon future.
We’re also working with the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries and the Ministry of Education to revise the curriculum in primary and secondary schools, as well as with the universities to incorporate decarbonisation and sustainable energy into the syllabus.
With the energy transition, we must also prepare communities to participate in a low-carbon future. We have changed our traditional community engagement approach from an oil and gas focus to creating jobs that help in decarbonisation. As such, we have community programmes on solar PV installations and energy efficiency programmes, for example.

How is National Energy assisting neighbouring countries in developing their oil and gas sectors?
We are working closely with South American neighbours including Guyana and Suriname to assist in the development of their respective energy industries, primarily by sharing lessons we have learned over the years in the development of our own industry. In fact, they now have the opportunity to incorporate low-carbon technologies simultaneously while they build their new oil and gas sectors, and by doing so significantly shorten the development time of future low-carbon industries.

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