In Trinidad and Tobago we rely 100% on the oil and gas industry for our energy. Oil is the main driver of the transportation sector and natural gas is the driver for the power generation sector. Oil and natural gas, which are fossil fuels, are non-renewable, meaning they are finite and will eventually run out over time. While the use of fossil fuels are damaging to the environment, it is also not a sustainable energy system. A sustainable energy system is one that does not compromise future generations’ access to wealth and welfare, does not contribute to climate change and runs entirely on renewable energy.
The most abundant natural resource in the Caribbean region is the sun.
The Sun and Earth
The Sun is the primary source of energy for the Earth, because almost all forms of energy are directly or indirectly obtained from the sun. It provides warmth for the planet, drives the hydrologic cycle, and makes life on Earth possible. The sun’s heat can be used directly to generate electricity, heat water, for solar cooling and to naturally heat and light buildings or homes. The heat from the sun creates temperature differences throughout the Earth which causes movement of air also known as Wind. The energy in the wind is harnessed to generate electricity using wind turbines. These winds along with the heat from the sun, evaporates water from the Earth’s surface. This evaporated water then returns as rain or snow and flows downhill through rivers and its energy is used to produce hydroelectric power. The sunlight and the water from rain cause plants to grow. Organic matter that make up these plants is known as biomass. Biomass can be used to generate electricity, to make transportation fuels and even chemicals. The use of biomass in this way is called bioenergy.
Animation of wind turbines
Solar power, wind power, hydro-electric power and bioenergy all in some way need the sun in order to exist. In the Caribbean, however, not all renewable sources come by means of the sun. Geothermal energy harnesses the heat energy in the Earth’s subsurface to generate electricity and also for heating or cooling. Trinidad and Tobago does not have the geothermal potential compared to the likes of fellow Caribbean islands such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Montserrat or Guadeloupe.
Renewable and Non-Renewable Sources
Trinidad and Tobago and by extension, the Caribbean, has both non-renewable and in particular, renewable sources of energy at its disposal. The importance of preventing rising sea levels caused by global warming in the Caribbean is being noticed every year and one can only hope that we don’t wait till it’s too late.