Apr 25, 2019 Last Updated 10:14 AM, Apr 24, 2019

AFTER years of dependence on fossil fuels, the good news from the international agency on renewable energy, IRENA is that the cost of technology on renewables are falling, and that by 2020, the average cost of power generation of all commercially available renewable energy technologies would be competitive with oil.

“Since 2009, solar PV module costs have fallen by more than 80%,” said IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, hosted by the United Arab Emirates in its capital of Abu Dhabi, in one of its recent reports.

“The power generated by solar PV declined by 73 per cent between 2010 and 2017. Onshore wind costs have also fallen sharply. The global weighted average cost of electricity from onshore wind fell by 22% between 2010 and 2017, making it one of the most competitive sources of electricity available today.”

With IRENA confirming that RE technology is being widely available and cheaper, the onus now is on politicians to ensure that such lower costs trickle down to their population.

This will be so true for islands in the Pacific, members of the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) who for years had complained about high prices of fossil fuels that had strangled their desire to grow their small and vulnerable economies, burdened as they are already with limited natural resources and expensive transportation costs.

Indeed, another report of IRENA was more direct in stating the obvious, that these small states stand to benefit the Costs tumble in renewable energy most if the world shifts towards adopting renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels.

“Fossil fuel imports currently amounts to 8 per cent of GDP for SIDS worldwide. The shift therefore to renewable energy would cut import bills, promote sustainable development and increase their resilience,” said the IRENA report ‘A New World.’

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100pc renewable electricity and sustainable biofuels

ARGUABLY one of the most beautiful places in the world, Fiji is an archipelago of over 330 islands with a vibrant culture that proudly celebrates its rich heritage, community life, and national sport, rugby. Yet, as a Small Island Developing State (SIDS), Fiji faces a number of development challenges including vulnerability to external shocks, such as climate change, a high dependence on imported fossil fuels, declining land and marine biodiversity due to unsustainable land management and coral reef degradation, and costly infrastructure and services in urban and rural communities.

To tackle these challenges, the Government of Fiji (GoF) has recognised the pivotal role that green growth plays in building a sustainable, inclusive and vibrant economy for all communities. In developing the 2014 Green Growth Framework (GGF), Fiji identified the need to better harness its natural resources, reduce vulnerability to environmental risks, and promote socially inclusive development. By adopting green growth, Fiji aims to lead by example, especially in climate change: Fiji was the first country to ratify the UN Paris Climate Agreement, and, now, is the first Pacific Island country to hold the Presidency of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties for the COP23 in Bonn, Germany later this year.

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Renewable, clean energy for islands

Unlike most of the island of Efate in Vanuatu, Takara is flat, sparsely vegetated and frankly boring to the eye. About 50-minutes north east from the capital, Port Vila, it was an airstrip for the US military during World War 2, but today it has nothing special to commend it to anybody - until you spot a sign announcing that Takara has hot springs. That clearly hints at thermal activity underground in the area and it now appears highly likely that Takara will become the site for Vanuatu’s first geothermal project.

It is being developed by Geodynamics, an Australian listed company and Geoff Ward, their CEO and managing director, hopes that exploratory drilling will take place at Takara by mid-2015. Mr Ward explained that geothermal electricity is produced from steam using hot water that is trapped underground. “Holes are drilled one to two kilometres deep to reach the hot water reservoir and bring it to the surface,” he said. “This powerful resource is then used to turn a turbine that produces electricity. The hot water is later returned to the reservoir deep underground.”

He said the use of geothermal steam for electricity production began in the early 20th century, with the first experimental installation built in Larderello, Italy, in 1904. “As of 2011, about 11 gigawatts (GW) of geothermal power capacity has been built around the world, most of it in the last three decades,” he said. “However, electricity generated from geothermal sources still only represents 0.3 per cent of the world’s total power generation.”

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SPC helps countries benefit from energy data

Do you know what percentage of the population in your country has access to electricity? Do you know how dependent your country is on fuel imports? Do you know what the energy consumption level is in your country? Do you know what the carbon footprint of your country is? The energy team at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) has answers to these and many other questions relating to energy and development in the Pacific.

SPC has a mandate to review and strengthen the national capacity of Pacific Islands countries and territories (PICTs) in gathering, collation, management, dissemination and analysis of energy data to better inform national and regional energy planning and policy choices. With valuable expertise in a wide range of sectors and a broad membership in the region, SPC is uniquely placed to do this. The statistics, data and information available from SPC are nothing short of a goldmine for policy-makers who rely on high-quality data and statistics to formulate effective energy policies/ plans and aid delivery. Building on its strength in this area, SPC played a key role at the Pacific Energy Summit (held in New Zealand in March 2013), where SPC Director-General, Dr Jimmie Rodgers was moderator for two sessions and a panelist for a third.

SPC’s message to the delegates was clear—a comprehensive analysis of energy supply and demand dynamics is crucial for improving understanding of the sector and for attracting more investment in clean, affordable and reliable energy services. Dr Rodgers presented to the meeting some facts relevant to energy policy that SPC has brought to light through its broad multi-sectoral approach.

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100% electricity from the sun

On 29 October, 2012, Tokelau became the first country in the world to be producing one hundred percent of its electricity from a renewable source—the sun. Tokelau’s three diesel-driven power stations now stand unused and peacefully silent across the three atolls of this Pacific island territory. SPREP commends the government and people of Tokelau for seeing through their long held vision for energy self-reliance, while, at the same time, doing their part as citizens of the global community in reducing the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Tokelau stands a beacon to the rest of the world in how to reduce a country’s carbon footprint. Commitments of this nature define the approach of developing “Pacific solutions to Pacific problems” as we strive to address the impacts of climate change on our island nations. Tokelau is a New Zealand administered territory, comprising three small atolls, situated some 600 kilometres northwest of Samoa. These three atolls are home to just over 1,400 Tokelauans.

The atolls are Fakaofo, the closest to Samoa; Nukunonu; and Atafu, the furthest atoll, situated northwest of the group. Prior to the advent of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project (TREP), the inhabitants of these three atolls used fossil fuel (diesel) power generators for their electricity needs. A typical Tokelauan home consumes between 5 and 14 kilowatt-hour (kWh) per day, accounting for an average demand for the country of 150 kilowatts per day. Based on this approximation, Tokelau emitted 1,695 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide per day when using diesel fuel for electricity generation. This translates to 620.5 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted by Tokelau in one year for power generation.

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