UWIAnthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence – Public Lecture
Delivered by Mr. James Husbands
2008 Laureate in Science & Technology
Title: Renewable Energy: Achievements and Opportunities for the Caribbean
Date: Monday 21st February, 2011
Venue: Daaga Auditorium, UWI St. Augustine
Husbands was delivering the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence/UWI public lecture on sustainable energy in the Caribbean. He is the 2008 Caribbean Awards for Excellence laureate in Science & Technology.
Husbands’s sentiments found much agreement and support from the Trinidad & Tobago government, academics and members of the public who were present. “There can be no better way to develop alternative energy in Trinidad & Tobago than to let a thriving energy oil and gas sector foot the bill,” said the Energy Minister, Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan during her remarks.
Reiterating that regional initiatives to address the issue of sustainable energy were high on the agenda of the People’s Partnership government, the Minister outlined several strategies and initiatives now being undertaken and considered by the government. These included the consideration of setting up of a photo voltaic manufacturing plant, the removal of taxes on items like solar energy water heaters, and adjusting the relevant legislation to allow T&TEC to integrate alternative energy use into its grid.
The UWI, St Augustine, principal, Prof Clement Sankat also reiterated his own, and the institution’s commitment to alternative energy, and said there were several ongoing research projects in sustainable energy at the University.
Husbands began his address by reminding the audience that Trinidad and Tobago was anomalous in the Caribbean, in being an energy exporter. The region’s energy import bill in 2007, he said, was (US) $12 billion, and it was imperative that alternatives be investigated.
He said alternative energy was not a new idea and research had been ongoing in the region and elsewhere since the 1960s and identified five main sources of alternative energy in the Caribbean: wind, solar (heat and electricity), geothermal, biomass and hydro. The geography of the Caribbean determines what type of technology is applicable to where. Guyana, with its rivers and waterfalls, had enormous potential for hydroelectric energy—some 7,000 megawatts, he said, but was only exploiting a small fraction of that, 226 megawatts.
St Kitts, Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada, Saba, and Dominica all have commercially viable geothermal potential, and Jamaica is actively exploiting wind energy. Biomass is simply agricultural waste, and is available throughout the Caribbean, but the quantities vary.
“Jamaica’s wind farm is their largest investment in renewable energy. It reduces carbon emissions and significantly boosts electricity production,” said Husbands. But it is his native Barbados which has had the most success in tapping solar energy, he said. His company, Solar Dynamics, which manufactures and distributes solar water heaters, had been in existence since the 1970s.
The company mainly services the large hotels, whose hot-water needs are high, but also services the domestic (residential home) market, and has recently been contracted to supply its products to a few government buildings in Barbados. Between 1974 and 2002, he said, 35,000 solar water heating systems were installed in Barbados, resulting in energy savings of approximately (US) $100,000,000.
Because of their size, either Suriname or Guyana alone can “generate the electricity we need for the region”. But, said Husbands, there is enough energy spread among our islands, that “when mixed judiciously with the fossil fuels, we actually have all the energy we need.” This potential can be harnessed by the creation of a submarine transmission network whereby power can be produced in one country, and exported to another.
Dr Anthony N Sabga, the founder and patron of the Caribbean Awards for Excellence, said he was pleased the Awards programme was able to contribute to the region’s development is such a direct way. This, he said, was their purpose: “to find people of talent, creativity, accomplishment, and entrepreneurial drive right here in the Caribbean”.
The Caribbean Awards for Excellence have been in existence since 2005, and selects laureates annually in Science & Technology, Arts & Letters, and Public & Civic Contributions. The laureates are presented with $500,000, a medal and a citation. Two Trinidadians, Dr Kim Johnson, and Prof Surujpal Teelucksingh, are among the 2011 Laureates. The third is Dr Lennox Honychurch is from Dominica.