Gonzales, Young talk energy, fuel

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales. –

PUBLIC Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales is confident the construction of a new 220,000 volt line from the Union sub-station to the Gandhi sub-station will provide an additional layer of protection against future blackouts.

Energy Minister Stuart Young said the volatility of international oil prices makes it difficult to predict what effect that could have on fuel prices in Trinidad and Tobago.

They made these statements on Friday, before the Standing Finance Committee of the House of Representatives approved supplementary allocations of $467,882,000 and $300,000,000 for their respective ministries.

The new line was scheduled to be completed later this year. In response to questions from Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, Gonzales said the line will give “an additional layer of resilience.”

On April 29, Gonzales laid the report of the Cabinet-appointed committee into the February 16 islandwide blackout. The report attributed the blackout to a large fungus-infected palmiste tree falling on a 12,000-volt line which subsequently fell on a 220,000-volt line. Quoting from the report in April, Gonzales said the committee did not find any evidence of sabotage as reason for the blackout. The new transmission line was identified in the report as one solution to prevent future blackouts.

Gonzales also said a sum of $12 million was allocated towards payment of electricity rebates. Some 200,000 people received rebates. Gonzales explained this applies when a customer’s monthly electricity bill is $300 or less.

He also said the ministry has $68 million in recurrent expenditure for streetlighting and to light recreational grounds across TT.

Gonzales said the ministry continues to work towards improving the efficiencies of organisations under its remit, for the benefit of the public.

“This is urgent and imperative.”

Later in the meeting, Pointe-a-Pierre MP David Lee asked Young if there may be further increases in fuel prices. Young replied that recent international events have resulted in global oil prices being very, very volatile.

This made it difficult to predict what could happen in the future, in relation to fuel prices.

But he told MPs that TT has not faced any related volatility in fuel prices compared to other countries.

Young reminded them that fuel in TT “is still quite subsidised.”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the price increases in the House on April 8.

Before April 19, the prices per litre, for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel are $5.75, $4.97 and $3.41 respectively. The prices for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel are now $6.75, $5.97 and $3.91 per litre.

Imbert said, “The Government is of the view that the liability for any fuel price adjustment should be shared more or less equally. The public should be asked to pay half the cost of the increased market prices of fuel, while the Government absorbs the other half.”

Imbert said the partial adjustment would be “sufficient to allow an equal distribution of the cost.”

These price adjustments will still require a government subsidy of approximately $840 million this year.