Spotlight On South Pacific – On The Way To A Clean Energy Future

Renewable energy development is being accelerated in the Pacific island states.
Published: Wed 10 Sep 2014

The hosting of the UN Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meeting in Samoa during the first week of September focusses interest on a region that otherwise receives little press.

From a SIDS perspective, it is a significant region, including 15 of the 39 islands or groups of islands that are classified as ‘small island developing states’ globally. These are Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Challenges for SIDS

In the modern world concerned with sustainable development, the SIDS face a combination of particular challenges. These include their small size and isolation, the threat from climate change and sea-level rise due to coastal zone concentration, and being highly vulnerable to natural and environmental disasters.

They are also highly reliant on imported fuels (specifically diesel) for power generation, and subject to price volatility and increasing fuel prices, leading not only to high energy prices for consumers but also to the point that their economic development can come under threat. [Engerati-Smart Metering Helps Caribbean’s Energy Security] In the South Pacific, for example, around 10% of the region’s gross domestic product goes towards importing fossil fuel.

Little wonder then that the SIDS are increasingly looking to become more self-sufficient for their power needs. However, the further challenge facing many of them is the limited resources available for these developments. Which is where the SIDS event – and others – come in, in (among other activities) sharing information about the needs and opportunities and developing partnerships to achieve these. For example at SIDS 2014 more than 100 global and regional partnerships were involved in the sustainable energy area, about a third of them new. To have value of course, such partnerships need to be more than talkshops and show actions and achievements.

Accelerating renewable energy development in Pacific

The development of renewable energy in the Pacific has gathered momentum following the 2013 Pacific Energy Summit, which led to a funding envelope of NZ$635 million (US$526 million). This includes NZ$255 million (US$211 million) in grant funding and NZ$380 million (US$315 million) in concessional loans sufficient to support over 40 projects over three years.

Projects being supported in the region include:

New Zealand: Over NZ$80 million (US$66 million) has been committed for 25 projects in seven countries: Cook Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Seventeen accelerated projects are under implementation in the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, and Samoa, with delivery expected before mid-2015. This includes the 2.2MW solar array in Samoa, which was inaugurated at the start of the 2014 SIDS event. [Engerati-Solar Array Sets Samoa On Path To 100% Renewable Generation]

Asian Development Bank (ADB): Currently energy sector projects in 11 Pacific island countries with investment worth US$272 million. ADB is on track to approve an additional four projects worth US$45 million. In 2015–2016, ADB is planning to invest in a further eight Pacific energy projects worth US$218 million.

Australia: The co-financed Promoting Energy Efficiency in the Pacific programme aims to reduce fossil fuels in five countries: Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. The programme is making progress in developing government policies and procedures that support energy efficiency, and implementing energy efficient projects in residential, commercial, and government sectors. Through the Pacific Regional Infrastructure Facility (PRIF) preparatory studies and design work for the Solomon Islands Tina River Hydro project are being supported.

European Union: Projects under way include solar PV power for the outer islands of the Cook Islands and of Tuvalu, a hydropower project in Samoa (with ADB), and through the Adapting to Climate and Sustainable Energy regional programme, renewable energy and energy efficiency actions in Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga.

European Investment Bank (EIB): Preparation has commenced (with the EU) of a technical assistance programme with the Fiji Electricity Authority. The objective is to prepare a number of investment proposals for future renewable energy and rural electrification projects. The EIB has been in close coordination with the World Bank and the ADB in regards to proposals in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

United Arab Emirates (UAE): US$50 million is being disbursed in grants for renewable energy generation projects. Project agreements with six countries – Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu – have been concluded to date. The Tonga project, the La’a Lahi ‘Big Sun’ solar plant, was commissioned in late 2013, with the remainder scheduled by early 2015. Proposals are currently under consideration from four countries in the latest funding cycle.

World Bank Group: Total investments, technical assistance, and advisory services in the Pacific energy sector now exceeds US$50 million. Recent developments include infrastructure upgrades in Federated States of Micronesia, renewable energy resource mapping in Papua New Guinea, and support for energy sector development in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.