19 Jul 2013

Head of SPC urges larger Pacific countries to aim for cleaner fossil fuels

5:22 pm on 19 July 2013

The head of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says larger countries like Papua New Guinea might be able to reach the stage of not relying at all on international aid, but have to work on using cleaner fossil fuels.

Dr Jimmie Rodgers says there are many differences between the large Melanesian countries and the smaller island states, particularly in their heavy use of transport.

At the joint climate-change and disaster-risk meeting in Fiji, Dr Rogers told Alex Perrottet that Pacific nations need to do more than set goals.

JIMMIE ROGERS: It's all very well to have an integrated plan. It's another thing to have it resourced and implemented and monitored. How do they measure the results? Because that's going to be important for development partners. They will happy to fund, as long as the outcomes are very clear.

ALEX PERROTTET: How do you get a balance between implementing these new approaches and making sure that there's a reasonable cost involved, so that we're not crippling these countries with the demand? How is that being factored into the strategic plan?

JR: The Pacific is dependant on fossil fuel, and for many of the countries in the Pacific the energy generation and transport is fossil fuel dependent. The Melanesian countries' ranges of energy consumption of fossil fuel is really only between 15% and 25%. So even if we were to go 100% renewable energy, we are not going to be reducing the reliance on fossil fuel as much. But it's a good gain. The Solomon Islands, 15% roughly of its total fossil fuel bill is for energy production, 85% is for transport. And this is where, I think, sometimes the drive to have 100% renewable energy in Pacific Island countries has not really taken into account the consideration that for some of these countries that's very good. But you're really only reducing the reliance on fossil fuel by between 15% to 25%. Now, when we've got the smaller island countries like Nauru or Tuvalu, yes, about 50% to 60% of the total fuel bill is on energy production. A smaller part is on transport, because they are smaller countries. Small island countries, I think you've got a much better chance of 100%. So the Cook Islands set a target, Tonga set a target - I think it's almost past target now for Tonga. But I think if they reviewed it by 2020, I think Tonga can be 100%, Cook Islands can be 100%. Samoa, I think, is already working towards very good penetration but still very much fossil fuel. I think if they set a target they can achieve it. So, really, the challenge for renewable energy is the larger Melanesian countries. And for them, the question, really, will be how do you reduce reliance on fossil fuel and transport? The answer is probably not much. The question then becomes, what about the quality of fossil fuel, because fossil fuel comes in different standards. So increasing the quality of fossil fuel, which is more expensive, but which is friendlier for omission, the costs are high, so it becomes an economic decision.