World Bank focuses on renewable energy in Pacific
Renewable energy in the Pacific was the topic of the World Bank discussion series earlier this month in Sydney.
Renewable energy in the Pacific was the topic of a World Bank discussion series earlier this month in Sydney
Pacific nations have often found themselves spending up to a quarter of their GDP on fuel imports, so governments have been increasingly turning to renewable energy sources.
Bridget Grace reports.
Historically the Pacific has faced unique challenges in electricity distribution, and an almost exclusive reliance on diesel-fueled generators. This reliance on fossil fuel imports, leaves Pacific island economies at the mercy of oil price fluctuations and high electricity prices. A Senior Energy Specialist from the World Bank, Kamleshwar Khelawan says access to energy is low in the Pacific and this comes down to geography.
KAMLESHWAR KHELAWAN: The landmass in the Pacific is about the size of New Zealand and it's spread over 15 percent of world's total area, so it is quite a challenge to get energy out there.
Mr Khelawan says governments in the region need greater access to finance and need to play their part in implementing energy programmes. The Pacific Power Association represents energy suppliers in the region. Its executive director Andrew Daka says they are focussing on developing renewable energy.
ANDREW DAKA: There is a lot of push now within the Pacific Island countries to do so. It's one of the reasons why the Pacific have engaged development partners and other organisations in developing renewable energy programmes for Pacific island countries, mainly to be able to lessen the impact of fuel price fluctuations.
Mr Daka says this emphasis on sustainable access to power, follows the events of 2008 where many Pacific countries had to declare states of emergencies after the price of fuel became unaffordable. Joule Logic is an independent power producer in the region, but say they don't currently have any facilities operating in the Pacific. The manager, Paul Fulton says renewable projects are typically highly capital intensive and some certainty is needed for investors to move into the Pacific.
PAUL FULTON: It takes a brave person to actually say okay you can have x dollars or x cents per kilowatt hour for the next fifteen years. In the situation where you've got huge price volatility of diesel generation, also the price of solar panels is coming down dramatically. When's the right time to go yes we'll give that certain price to an independent power producer.
Renewable energy targets are seen as one way to encourage development, with Samoa, and several other countries, aiming to go 100 percent renewable. A research fellow from the Australian National University, Matthew Dornan, says the ability to achieve such targets varies greatly depending on the country.
MATTHEW DORNAN: They're set due to concerns about climate change, which small island nations are quite understandably concerned about, and those targets, I guess, bolster the positions of those countries in climate change negotiations.
He says many countries have reset their targets to more achievable goals. Mr Dornan says renewable energy can play an important role in expanding electricity access. He says 70 percent of Pacific Islanders don't have an electricity supply, and the focus has too often been on providing power to existing networks.
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