Urgent overhaul needed: Trinidad & Tobago’s energy sector calls for swift decision-making

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Things cannot be business as usual in Trinidad and Tobago if the country wants its energy sector to mend, according to head of its Energy Chamber, Dr. Dax Driver. 

In an August 21 column, Dr. Driver lamented that TT would need to significantly accelerate the pace at which fundamental decisions are taken, vital to the survival of its energy sector. 

“If we are unable to secure new investment for upstream production of green electrons, gas or oil, and new investment in decarbonising our downstream plants, our economy is going to contract hugely and the standard of living for Trinidad & Tobago’s entire population is going to plummet,” he wrote. 

And the pace at which these decisions are made needs to ramp up, Dr. Driver pointed out. 

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“We have no time to waste and collectively Trinidad & Tobago is going to have to find a way to implement changes faster,” he added. 

Dr. Driver explained that TT currently has a “siloed decision-making process” evident by the lengthy process to get approval for its first major grid-scale renewable energy project underway. 

“At the moment, we seem to have different Ministries and different agencies pulling in different directions.  I am seeing the same with the vital fiscal reform process.  This has to stop; we need all Ministries and agencies pulling in the same direction,” he pointed out further. 

Dr. Driver said too that TT’s project approval processes are not “designed for speed” and this significantly hampers progress in the country. In 2019, the Chamber conducted a review of TT’s approval process for new major upstream gas projects; it found that no less than 33 major approvals were needed from eight different Ministries. 

“Most of these took place in series rather than working in parallel.  And, shockingly, in 2023 most of the decisions have still to be taken using paper files and relying on physical signatures of the decision-makers.  We have heard of cases where important decisions cannot be taken because a hardcopy file has gone missing.  Fixing this issue needs detailed, busy work and a commitment to streamline and ruthlessly cut out processes and decisions that do not add value to the overall approval process,” he said. 

TT’s economy is reliant on the production and processing of natural gas but its gas production has fallen by a third in the past decade.

The situation has gotten so dire that its Prime Minister Keith Rowley had also said that if no new gas projects come online, the quality of life for Trinidadians will be at risk

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