Geo-Political Development in the Caribbean: The Case For Renewable Energy Investment in Trinidad and Tobago
Our intention for this research was to have the opportunity to travel to Trinidad and Tobago in order to investigate energy security on the island, yet due to an inability to travel my research remained largely virtual and my research was adapted. My focus was on the inquiry of why renewable energy is not a primary resource on the island despite the evident benefits of making the shift from fossil fuels. The overabundance of water and sun in the Carribean creates a prime location for the utilization of hydroelectric and/or solar power, yet the abundance of these renewable resources is not reflected in the energy type distribution. This draws upon concepts of scarcity and abundance which have been guiding perceptions in the energy industry. Essentially, the usage of non-renewable energy such as fossil fuels are existing in a context of scarcity because eventually there will not be enough resources for everyone which leads to conflict and many going without. Renewable energy resources would not be forced to operate under this context and instead would be available in abundance due to the sheer accessibility of renewable resources in many places. The challenge lies in making the shift from one method to another not in the accessibility to these resources, which is a global struggle and not one exclusive to Trinidad and Tobago. These challenges are largely financial and political in nature and require institution and political changes in order to successfully make this shift.
The time Trapetas McGill was able to spend in the twin-island during the winter of 2019 shaped the focus of our research inquiries. Trapetas was able to meet with key stakeholders in the agriculture and energy sector who gave their first-hand account about their inability to successfully lobby the government for vital resources despite their importance to food and national security for Trinidad and Tobago. Farmers attest to the lack of government support and funding for infrastructure for large scale irrigation to rural farmland. Citizens also voiced their concern surrounding inflation caused by the import of overproduced goods from the global north. This allowed us to address two of our primary research questions; through conducting interviews with various stakeholders (farmers, sustainability non-profits, energy suppliers, and government officials, etc.) during the brief period I was able to identify Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC) as the supplier of water and electricity to the entire twin-island as well as neighboring countries. However this summer the archives were heavily utilized; through primarily colonial reports on the region of Latin America and the Twin Island itself, we were able to realize Trinidad's historical trends in terms of their energy transition, infrastructure projects, and water supply expansion. We find that the island energy sector has always – since independence and in its colonial-era– been heavily influenced and deterred by global commerce, private investment, and international narratives surrounding the idea of scarcity and abundance for natural resources. In our finding this summer we realized the country needs substantial data and reports (primarily in the field of anthropology) that focus and document the need for alternative energy sources for the twin islands.