Less than one week before Minister of Finance Colm Imbert reads the national budget for fiscal 2018, the head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Port of Spain, Ambassador Arend Aad Biesebroek, is recommending that the Government and the private sector accelerate renewable energy usage to help mitigate the effects of climate change while earning much-needed foreign exchange (forex) selling more natural gas to Europe.
The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) has 2,100 megawatts (MW) of installed generation capacity out of which about 1,000 MW is consumed currently. This and the previous government’s stated ambition is to have, by 2021, ten per cent from renewable energy sources, which will be about 200 MW, according to the National Gas Company (NGC) official numbers.
Biesebroek was speaking at a Rotary Club of Port of Spain meeting at Fitzblackman Drive in Woodbrook yesterday.
“In the past financial envelopes for Trinidad and Tobago were rather generous. In 2013, the financial envelope that was made available to Trinidad and Tobago was only one-third of what it received in the previous years,” the Dutch diplomat said. He added that, in the past, special arrangements were also available but now, T&T, like many other “middle-income and high-income countries” have had their envelopes (grant and loan money) cut.
However, the EU ambassador said there are still low-interest loans the private sector can access for projects in renewable energy. He said though now “much less money (has been) made available” the EU has recognised “it makes economic and financial sense” to partner with the region and encourage trade.
He said the EU has financing programmes for agri-business as well as grants and loans that form part of the EU programme Horizon 2020 that T&T businesses should look into. All proposals are submitted online, and projects usually require a team of at least three partners.
According to Horizon 2020 documentation, once a proposal passes the evaluation stage, which takes five months, the European Commission draws up a grant agreement with each participant. The grant agreement confirms what research and innovation activities will be undertaken, the project duration, budget, rates and costs, the European Commission’s contribution, all rights and obligations and more. The time limit for signing the grant agreements is generally three months.