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.


Pacific pushes clean energy in Abu Dhabi

Pacific leaders took centre stage at an international conference on renewable energy to reiteraite calls for implementation rather than just talk about switching to cleaner and greener sources of energy.

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga led the charge by telling delegates that if a small nation like his could work on dramatically reducing its carbon footprint although its contribution to the global greenhouse gas emission is “miniscule, ” then the bigger and wealthier economies could do so too.

“The message from the latest IPCC report on 1.5 degree is very clear,” Prime Minister Sopoaga told a Small Island Developing States dialogue in the lead up to the 9th general assembly of IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency that begins in the capital of the United Arab Emirates later today (12 Jan).

“There is urgency for the whole world to reduce emissions. There’s no plan B. There shouldn’t be any plan B to play around with this demand. It is a necessity, this is imperative if we are to save SIDS and save the whole world from climate change.”

The leader of Tuvalu insisted that renewable energy could not be discussed in isolation from climate change. The two matters he said, are inter-connected. The tiny Pacific island nation is for example well on its way of reaching its target of 100 per cent powered by solar energy by 2025.

Sopoaga said electricity is now accessible to 100 per cent of the population of Tuvalu, and 25 per cent of them already sourced their power from the sun.

The need to go for clean, renewable energy was reiterated by other Pacific leaders that spoke at the IRENA SIDS session. President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati, to Tuvalu’s immediate northern neighbor said his island nation contributed 0.0002 per cent of total global carbon emissions.

Though “negligible,” Maamau said Kiribati is still doing its part in moving away from fossil fuel to energy that is renewable. The diesel generator that powers 7.01 MW in the capital Tarawa costs US$6m annually to operate.

Under its eight-year energy roadmap that was drawn up with support from IRENA, President Maamau said his administration is working towards reducing fossil fuel reliance by 45 per cent and 60 per cent in Tarawa and Christmas Island respectively by 2025.

Cook Islands is also progressing well in its goal of going 100 per cent on renewable energy by 2020, with Prime Minister Henry Puna informing delegates that his island nation has already achieved 80 per cent of the goal.

Fiji’s new minister for energy Jone Usumate outlined Fiji’s efforts of pursuing its 100 per cent renewable energy goal. Through IRENA support, three government centres of Lakeba, Kadavu and Rotuma are powered through hybrid energy – a mix of solar and diesel.

Minister Usumate also raised the challenge of maintaining solar energy, storage and the need for trained locals to make the switch from fossil to clean energy sustainable.

Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa also gave an update on her island nation’s target of reaching 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy by 2025. Minister Fiame will also present the SIDS Dialogue’s outcomes to the plenary of IRENA that officially opens at the capital of the UAE later today.

The world agency on renewable energy says more than 120 ministers and delegates from 160 countries are in Abu Dhabi for the four-day high level discussions, aimed at accelerating renewable energy deployment that supports sustainable development goals and global climate objectives.

“The Assembly is taking place against a backdrop of falling cost of renewable energy, a growing recognition of its socio-economic benefits and calls for greater action to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” IRENA said in a statement it released this week.

“In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report highlighted that the world has just 12 years left to take decisive action on climate mitigation and called for a rapid and far-reaching energy transformation based on renewables. According to IRENA analysis, renewable energy deployment must accelerate by a factor of six to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year, the Assembly will be presided over by H.E. Mr. Li Fanrong, Vice President of China’s National Energy Administration.”

TC Mona’s weak and slow

Unconventional cloud structure is causing havoc among meteorologists in monitoring and tracking Tropical Cyclone Mona which has been hovering northwest of Fiji in recent days.

Weather app Windy has been showing a loose, weakened and poorly organised cloud structure, and the absence of a clear core or eye of the storm since late last night.

More than 12 hours ago, Suva-based private weather service Nadraki posted on its Facebook page that for “a purportedly category 2 tropical cyclone, TC Mona is looking almost dead, with little convection to be seen near the centre and a very ragged cloud signature.”

Because of this, Nadraki said it would be “difficult to locate it with any precision and nearly impossible to determine its current movement.”

Only a short time ago did the Fiji Meteorological Service revise its cyclone forecast reports by confirming that TC Mona has reduced strength overnight and it is now back as a Category One cyclone, and not Two as it had announced yesterday.

In its latest weather bulletin released at 1330 Fiji Time today, the Fiji Met Service says a tropical cyclone warning is still enforced for islands in Fiji’s northwest, including the western regions of Vanua Levu in northern Fiji.

While different weather forecasting services and computer models have different versions of the strength and speed of TC Mona, they all agree that the storm will bring with it a lot of rain and that it would make landfall in Fiji either late Sunday or Monday.

In their most recent rainfall map, the Fiji Met Service says eastern Fiji, specifically on the two Lau islands of Lakeba and Vanuabalavu recorded the most rainfall of 159mm and 107mm respectively over the last 24 hours to today, 5 December. Monasavu in the centre of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu and Navua on Viti Levu’s east coast also recorded over 100mm of rain.

Fiji Met and other weather models are predicting more rain in the next 48 hours. Several roads in Fiji’s north, central and western regions were reported to have been flooded overnight, but most have been cleared for all traffic later today.

These weather services differ though on the likely path TC Mona is going to take as it continues its slow track down south, and where and when exactly it is going to make landfall in Fiji.

Fiji Met is predicting this won’t happen until early on Monday and Mona will probably hit land on the west coast of Vanua Levu, in Fiji’s north.

Nadraki on the other hand quotes the US military warning centre in that TC Mona will most likely hit the northern coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island early Monday.

Whatever path the now Category One cyclone will take, Nadraki is urging Fiji to be prepared and to heed the warnings from Fijian disaster management authorities.

Fiji batters down for TC Mona

By Samisoni Pareti

Air and sea travel have almost grounded to a halt in Fiji as the island nation batters down for the approaching tropical cyclone now named Mona. 

Fiji Airways’ domestic operator, Fiji Link confirmed that six of its flights from Nadi and Suva to the northern towns of Labasa, Savusavu and Taveuni have been cancelled today “due to impending adverse weather conditions associated with Tropical Cyclone Mona.”

The cancellation however has not reached its international flights, although Fiji Airways is urging customers to check on flight updates on their website.

Local ferry operator Goundar Shipping had put out radio messages to announce that it is also cancelling services until the cyclone passes.

At 7am Fiji time today, the Fiji Meteorological Service says Tropical Cyclone Mona was located 240km north of Yasawa I rara, on Fiji’s northwest, or about 200km northwest of Labasa, in northern Fiji.

Close to its centre, average winds is estimated to be about 85km per hour with momentary gusts to 120km per hour. It is moving currently on a south-southwest direction at about 20km per hour.

Fiji Met has issued a gale warning for islands in Fiji’s western sea borders of Yasawa and Mamanuca Groups, and a tropical cyclone alert for the rest of the Yasawa Group, the northern islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni and nearby smaller islands.

Strong wind warning has been issued for Kadavu, down south, and nearby smaller islands, northern Viti Levu from Rakiraki to Tailevu North, and heavy rain warning remains in force for the Yasawas, Mamanuca, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and nearby smaller islands, eastern regions of Viti Levu that includes the capital, Suva, and Lau and Lomaiviti groups.

Because it is slow moving, it has been difficult for meteorologists to track and predict the likely path Tropical Cyclone Mona will take.

Fiji Met is predicting that Mona although moving currently on a south-southwest direction, will later today swing back towards the southeast, and if this happens, it will make landfall on the northern town of Labasa early on Sunday.

Its tracking map is projecting that the eye of the storm will cut through Vanua Levu, down the Lomaiviti Group, veering somewhat to the west slipping past the east of the capital, Suva on the evening of Sunday as it continues on its southerly direction., an internet-based weather app is predicting a similar path, although at a much slower pace. It is projecting that Mona won’t make landfall near Labasa until Sunday evening and won’t slip past Suva until Monday morning.

It is also predicting heavy rain especially on the north, east and south regions of Fiji, as well as extremely rough seas.

Fiji Met says mariners should expect northeast to southeast winds of 20 to 30 knots, gusting to 35 knots. There will be moderate southerly swells, and poor visibility in areas of rain and thunderstorms.

Private weather bureau based in Suva, Nadraki admits that forecasting the movement of Tropical Cylone Mona has been difficult, acknowledging that the Fiji Met Service is projecting a north to south path, cutting through Vanua Levu, and moving closer to the capital on its way further south.

Nadraki however predicts a more western path for the cyclone, and that it will affect northern and western parts of the main island of Viti Levu more than the eastern or southern regions.

“There is also much greater risk of heavy rain and flooding over Viti Levu and if this is how things unfold we could see widespread rain heavy at times through much of the coming weekend over Fiji. There is a potential for major flooding, although at this time the extent of flooding will be determined by the movement of TC Mona over coming days and also it is likely that heavy rain and flooding over the west, should it occur, would not commence for another 12 to 18 hours at least,” the private weather service predicts in its Facebook page.

“Today is expected to be humid and mostly cloudy with periods of rain over Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Lomaiviti this morning heavy at times. This rain is forecast to spread over Viti Levu and Kadavu and nearby smaller islands overnight and early tomorrow. This rain may continue for 24 to 36 hours over much of Fiji this weekend. All communities should be prepared for hazardous weather over coming days, namely widespread heavy rain and flooding, and damaging storm force winds gusting to 105 kph.

“Please continue to heed official warnings while keeping in mind the increased risk of a more direct impact on the west over the weekend,” Nadraki Weather adds.