Pacific to benefit the most from renewable energy

Small island developing states (SIDS) including those in the Pacific stand to benefit the most if they adopt renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels, a groundbreaking report has said.

Released during the 9th assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) at the weekend in Abu Dhabi, where the headquarters of IRENA is also located, the report is called A New World – The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation.

It estimated that 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.”

“International cooperation to support SIDS’ renewable energy ambitions is growing substantially, and 13 SIDS have established 60-100% renewable electricity targets,” the report noted.

The Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu were the Pacific nations named as having 60 to 100 per cent renewable electricity targets.

Fiji’s vulnerability to fossil fuel imports was also singled out in the report. It stated that fossil fuel imports accounted to about 27 per cent of all of Fiji’s merchandise imports. This puts Fiji in the same category as Guinea, Senegal, Greece and Singapore.

The French territory of New Caledonia was also mentioned in the 88-page report of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, which IRENA established during its 2018 Assembly.

“The widespread adoption of renewable energy and related technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and energy storage technologies, will increase the demand for a range of minerals and metals required for their production.

“In theory, the regions that possess substantial reserves of these minerals should benefit from the energy transformation. Latin America has huge reserves of copper, iron ore, silver, lithium, aluminium, nickel, manganese, and zinc. Africa is rich in platinum, manganese, bauxite, and chromium.

“In the Asia-Pacific region, China has metal reserves; India has iron ore, steel and titanium; Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines possess bauxite and nickel; and New Caledonia has enormous reserves of nickel.”

Nickel is a raw material in solar technology, the report added. It said other islands of the Pacific could also be sources of raw materials in renewable energy as some of the required minerals are found on the ocean floor.

The report observed that the geopolitical and socio-economic consequences of a new energy age might be as profound as those which accompanied the shift from biomass to fossil fuels two centuries ago. These included changes in the relative position of states, the emergence of new energy leaders, more diverse energy actors, changed trade relationships and the emergence of new alliances.

Three Pacific leaders are supporting the voice of the Pacific in the three-day IRENA Assembly that came to an end in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, last weekend.

These included the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, and Prime Ministers Henry Puna and Enele Sopoaga of the Cook Islands and Tuvalu respectively. Fiji’s new minister responsible for energy Jone Usamate headed Fiji’s delegation.


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