Multi-million dollar project for more eco-friendly cooling systems in T&T

It is a Catch-22 situation.

Because the earth has been getting hotter, we have been using more air conditioning. But because we are now using more air conditioning, the earth is getting hotter.

On January 10, the European Union’s Copernicus satellite agency reported that the planet’s hottest seven years on record were the last seven, “by a clear margin.”

Last year was the fifth hottest.

Buying an air conditioner is perhaps the most popular individual response to these rising temperatures.

According to 2020 statistics, there were an estimated 1.9 billion air conditioning units in the world.

T&T is not different.

Project Manager, Energy Efficiency, Anselm Simon, through the development of low-carbon RAC Technologies in T&T project.

Anselm Simon, the project manager of the energy efficiency through the development of low-carbon RAC technologies in T&T project, says the goal is to get people to purchase comfort cooling systems that are less detrimental to the environment.

“For the persons who already have systems in place and have the capability to change, we want to be able to influence that change. For the persons who are in the planning stage and now seeking to purchase, we want to influence their choice. For the person who has systems in place already but are not in a position or are not willing to change immediately, at least we want them to have the information so when they come to that stage we influence their choice toward a more  energy-efficient environmentally-friendly option,” Simon said.

Simon said at the end of the day the goal is to ensure the sustainability of not only our island but the world.

In this regard, Simon is advocating district cooling.

“District cooling uses water as the heat transfer mechanism as opposed to the refrigerants that we are usually faced with which are hydrochloro, chlorocarbons which are detrimental to either the ozone layer or produces greenhouse gases which at the end of the day affects the environment,” Simon said.

T&T has begun implementation of the largest ever grant-funded national project under the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) titled Energy Efficiency through the Development of Low-carbon RAC Technologies in T&T.

The overall goal of this US$5.152 million four-year project is to create a sustained market change towards the adoption of low-carbon refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) technologies in T&T, which will deliver multiple benefits at the local, regional and global levels.

It will also assist this country in achieving the sustainable development goals in particular those related to climate change, and ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.

Additionally, it will aid this country in keeping its international commitments under the Montreal Protocol and United Nations Framework Convention to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC). This will be achieved through the integration of energy-efficient refrigeration and air conditioning technologies that would reduce the use of high global warming potential (GWP) and ozone depleting substance (ODS) refrigerants.

“The project is aimed at creating a market change with T&T toward the utilisation of low carbon and energy-efficient cooling devices and cooling equipment,” he said.

“Within T&T we have a culture that looks for purchases based on reputation brand and also cost.

Given our low cost of electricity in T&T has always been a barrier toward the adoption of energy-efficient technology but as we look at the current environmental situation the temperatures continue to rise globally,” he said.

Simon said the project has three major components.

He said the first one deals mainly with strengthening this country’s policy position as it relates to energy efficiency in the sector. 

“So we will be looking at things like establishing a synergy between existing policies. We have policies at the Ministry of Finance that speaks to incentives we may have something under the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Energy so we are looking to find synergies across those,” he said.

This includes regulatory instruments to manage the imports of these types of technology.

“For example the deployment of what we call minimum energy performance standards for these types of equipment. What this would do is that the ports of entry will set a minimum standard for the energy efficiency rating of the equipment,” he said.

“And we would also build the capacity of the sector to support these types of technologies installation maintenance repair and on the consumer end we will be doing sensitisation with the consumers,” Simon said.

He said the goal is to educate people about the benefits to them as individuals and also the wider picture from the country level and also the global level of deploying these types of systems.

The second component of the project covers “the proof in the pudding.”

“So we want to deploy two pilot projects that showcase energy efficient low-carbon technology for refrigeration and air conditioning,” he said.

He said examples of district cooling will be deployed across the country to show that the technology is not only energy efficient but it utilises alternative refrigerants.

Simon said two pilot projects were identified—one at the University of T&T campus at Pt Lisas and the other at the Piarco International Airport.

“The other pilot was initially the Piarco International Airport but we are in the process of identifying an alternative because as you know with COVID it will put a strain on different organisations and entities within the island,” Simon said.

“The demonstration projects are smaller projects where we showcase the type of technology and we can incorporate other types of technology like solar just to bring the energy efficiency and renewable energy examples.

We have identified two hotels in Tobago to showcase this type of technology and we hope to possibly do two schools in Trinidad to showcase the type of technology,” he said.

The third component includes sharing the learnings and experiences and hopefully influencing similar projects in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“So the third component speaks to deploying a communication plan and sensitisation capacity development that type of thing,” he said.

The project, led by the National Ozone Unit, Environmental Policy and Planning Division, Ministry of Planning and Development, will utilise a public-private partnership approach engaging a diverse group of stakeholders, including but not limited to, Government Ministries, Public Agencies, Academia and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will be a fundamental partner for the overall implementation.

It is expected that the project will provide global environmental benefits in terms of direct emission carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq) savings of at least 644,396 tCO2eq over the fouryear period.