- By Jonathan Perez, For Pacific Islands Times
Greening the Blue Pacific
While rich in natural resources, island nations are facing challenges that hinder renewable energy development
Renewable energy has drastically changed since it was introduced years ago. Once considered an alternative power source, renewable energy is going mainstream with the cost of production going down.
Renewable energy can change power generation in the Pacific region.
It’s cheap, clean and can contribute to the economic development of the Pacific island nations, according to the Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand (PTINZ), an agency under the Pacific Islands Forum.
“Renewable energy in the past was expensive and not as efficient as it is now. In addition, the cost is now cheaper than diesel power generation in the Pacific islands,” said Glynis Miller, PTINZ commissioner.
PTINZ has partnered with the London-based Camco Clean Energy, a climate and impact fund manager, to help Pacific Island countries develop their renewable energy projects.
Miller said PTINZ recognized the need for Pacific islands to switch to renewable and clean energy. However, there are a number of challenges that Pacific island nations much overcome including funding availability and environmental regulations.
“Supporting the efforts of Pacific Island countries by providing the tools to highlight resources available for investment in renewable energy projects is what we do,” she said.
PTINZ focuses on aiding investments in agriculture, medical tourism, education and renewable energy. “Investment triggers economic development, creates jobs, empowers people with new skills etc. It is not our place to express an opinion on this matter – there are others out there more qualified to do so,” Miller said.
Miller said PTINZ is also working with island governments as well as non-profit organizations and donor institutions to help island nations meet their renewable energy goals through grants and investment opportunities.
“We seek to empower decision makers within governments and private sector entities with the knowledge on how to assess key attributes of feasible renewable energy projects as well as share insights of what private sector fund manager requirements are for investable projects,” Miller said.
Camco has shown an interest in pushing to strengthen renewable energy to agencies with interest in private sector financing, and investor and investment authorities. Since it was formed in 1989, Camco has been one of the global leaders in helping fund low-carbon energy projects and climate finance.
“Camco has an immense wealth of knowledge and experience in such a specialised field. Hearing directly from them about how your business or country can find opportunities for renewable energy projects as well as obtaining funding will be highly valuable,” Miller said.
Geoff Sinclair, Camco’s managing director, said his organization has been at the forefront of helping emerging markets across Asia and Africa to transition to clean energy while Pacific countries have a lot of sources of renewable energy.
“Countries in the Blue Pacific have an abundance of untapped energy sources in the wind, sunshine, tidal and other renewable energy resources,” Sinclair said. “Renewables have the potential to tap into this and transform the energy landscape, reducing the dependence on the expensive and polluting diesel that has to be imported.”
Governments and businesses in Pacific Island Countries are making real efforts in transitioning to renewable energy solutions. As these become increasingly competitive on price, it is crucial for decision makers to have all the information about what solutions are available, what could be suitable for them, what opportunities exist to finance projects and how to take advantage of them.”
However, Miller said grid connectivity— along with the amount of diesel still being used— is one of the huge issues that pose a challenge in terms of power production and consumption in the Pacific islands.
“Finding funds to help businesses, governments, and communities’ transition away from diesel is a big challenge and one that PTI NZ has been working on to introduce the players who bring the expertise and the funds, to accompany what is already in place. Any investment in these trying times of the pandemic is going to be difficult.” Miller said. “But we must try.”
Investors must also hurdle environmental regulations in order to develop renewable energy in the Pacific island nations. “The regulatory environment in a lot of cases, presents enormous challengers for investors and those with more investor friendly policies will benefit the most from the inflow of capital into the Pacific,” Miller said.
“Having the right organizations to deliver projects in remote areas in the Pacific Islands is also a challenge, but with more projects the viability to set up these types of organisations will make more commercial sense.”
PTINZ has also collected important data that showed key variables including tariffs, grid coverage, diesel usage —on the average electricity consumption of Pacific countries. Data that could be the game changer in their push to promote renewable energy in the Oceania region. “This data is key to enabling PTI NZ to attract funds like CCE to the Pacific as it shows how much work still needs to be done,” Miller said.