Address by The Honourable Stuart R. Young, MP Minister of Energy and Energy Industries And Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister at the Inaugural Future Forum hosted by The Heroes Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Honourable Ministers,

Mr. Lawrence Arjoon, CEO of the Heroes Foundation,

Ms. Carina Cockburn, IDB Country Representative,

My fellow presenters,

And last but not least, all of the youth participants in today’s Future Forum

Good morning.

I am honoured to have been invited to participate in the inaugural Future Forum hosted by the Heroes Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). I wholeheartedly commend the Heroes Foundation and the IDB for taking the initiative to empower the youth of Trinidad and Tobago and for the continued investment in the people of our country. I am heartened to see so many leaders taking the time to share their knowledge, and just as many young people willing to learn from them. Today, I wish to share with you my knowledge and perspective on the future of the energy sector, including the impact of climate change, the need for sustainability and the availability of career opportunities.

I am sure that many of you may have heard about climate change, perhaps on the news or in your classrooms. Trinidad and Tobago, as a Small Island Developing State, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as more intense hurricane seasons. The question is what does this have to do with energy and the future of the energy sector? Over the past hundred years and more, fossil fuels, namely coal, oil and natural gas, have been the dominant source of energy and are also the major source of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for the acceleration of climate change and its adverse affects.

As a consequence, the global community including Trinidad and Tobago has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have set a target of a 15% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector by 2030. Other countries have established individual targets. To achieve their goals, countries including Trinidad and Tobago, as part of their strategies are adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal as these forms of energy emit no greenhouse gas emissions. Trinidad and Tobago by 2022 would have its first major renewable project, which is a Solar Utility Project between affiliates of BPTT and Shell. It is projected that by 2050 renewable energy sources will comprise 26% of the world’s primary energy needs and will continue to eclipse fossils fuels as the main primary energy source. The ultimate goal is to achieve a carbon neutral position in which there is no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

With increased penetration of renewable energy in the energy mix, there will a need for persons involved in the design, manufacture and installation of renewable energy systems, qualified electricians and research and development personnel to name a few. The demand for these skills will soon become apparent with the completion of the country’s first major solar project scheduled for 2022. The power from the solar project is to be used to produce green hydrogen as feedstock for ammonia production. We are currently undertaking a feasibility study for producing green hydrogen on an industrial scale as part of our transitioning to a green economy. This is in keeping with the global movement which has been fuelled by special funding arrangements. From a career prospective, the increased investment will lead to a growth in renewable energy jobs which in 2019 stood at 11.5 million and is projected to grow to 42 million jobs by 2050.

During the transition to renewable energy sources, measures such as Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage are being explored by countries. Trinidad and Tobago has established a committee to investigate the potential to capture carbon dioxide emissions from our various industrial processes and to utilize it in other processes, including enhanced oil recovery.

As I speak about the future of the energy sector, you may wonder what it all means for you. Whatever the shape of the future energy sector, qualified personnel will continue to be a key feature. Understandably, the accelerated transition to a carbon neutral world may be a cause for concern for young people who have recently entered hydrocarbon related professions or those who were contemplating such careers. While these concerns are valid, it is projected that fossil fuels will provide 74% of the global primary energy needs in 2050 with natural gas being the fossil fuel with the greatest longevity. Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector is expected to continue to make a major contribution to the economy during the transitory period. We are about to embark on a series of bid rounds in which acreage onshore and offshore will be offered to energy companies for exploration for oil and gas. So, there will a need for the basic energy sector skills, augmented by skillsets in the latest technology on digitalization, software development, data analytics and robotics.

With increased digitalization and internet-based systems, there is an increasing need for robust cyber security systems. Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risks stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards. On May 7, 2021 a major US pipeline was forced to shut its entire network after it was hit by a major cyber-attack. This is just one example of the economic damage that can be caused by cyber-attacks. This is a growth area and a career opportunity for persons with a strong interest in programming, good analytical and communication skills.

The downstream industry, which is dominated by petrochemicals, also provides opportunity for persons wishing to pursue a career in the gas processing industry. Trinidad and Tobago is a major producer of ammonia and methanol. While there is a movement to petrochemical production using renewable energy, it is expected the current plants will be relevant for a considerable period.  However, as I indicated before the production of green ammonia is a distinct possibility in the near term and in the longer term we are seeking to establish a hydrogen economy. We are also considering the production of bio-methanol from waste material.

The global movement to a low carbon fuels has created an opportunity for methanol as a marine fuel. Methanol is rich in hydrogen, easy to manage, inexpensive to store and transport, and is a low carbon pathway. This augurs well for the methanol industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

An often-ignored fact is that oil, natural gas and petrochemicals are exported by ships. There is opportunity for persons wishing to make a career in maritime industry whether in a shore-based capacity or offshore. The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) at its Chaguaramas Campus offers courses at the diploma level in Maritime Operations (Engineering/Navigation), a Bachelor of Science Degree in Maritime Operations and Masters of Science Degree in Operational Maritime Management. It is estimated that there will be a need for an additional 89,510 maritime officers by 2026 to operate the world’s merchant fleets. If you are interested in a maritime career I suggest you visit the UTT website to determine the entry requirements.

Today I have only just touched the surface of what the future of the energy sector might look like and the opportunities that it holds for the country’s youth. I expect that the future of energy will continue to be shaped by the need to address the threat of climate change, while ensuring that we can meet growing global energy demands in a sustainable manner. I hope that I have provided some useful information that inspires you to consider the role that you can play in the energy sector.

As I conclude, I wish to sincerely apologize for being unable to be with you to participate in what promises to be an enlightening discussion on the future of the energy sector, but I am certain that you are in capable hands. To our youth participants today, I take this opportunity to remind you that you are the future of Trinidad and Tobago, and each and every one of you here today can be a hero for your country. The future is in your hands. Thank you very much.