Solomon Islands optimistic to reduce electricity costs through reforms: Vehe

Dr Chris Vehe

Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification Dr Chris Vehe has highlighted the energy challenges facing Solomon Islands and reforms the Government is undertaking to reduce and alleviate reliance on fossil fuel while investing in renewable energy.

Representing Solomon Islands at the recent Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) from 13-16 June at the ADB Headquarters in Manila, Philippines, Vehe stressed that creating sustainable regulations is important in developing the Pacific’s transition to clean renewable energy away from dependency on imported fossil fuel.

Sharing the Solomon Islands experience, he said the country’s situation is exceptional in that it continues to be impacted by the highest electricity costs in the world, which prevents the vast majority of the population from access to secure and reliable energy while the country has the highest dependency on imported fossil fuel despite the existence of abundant renewable energy resources.

“The impact of prohibitively expensive energy costs reflects profoundly in the deterrence of our socio-economic growth, contributing to our low standard of living with high rate of unemployment in the country,” he said. 

Regardless of the Government’s best planning efforts, Vehe noted that the country is likely to continue relying on imported fossil fuel for an uncertain period in the future. 

“Our vulnerability to the transcending rising oil prices globally is a wakeup call to accelerate transition to clean renewable energy”.

“Reminiscence of the uncertainties faced on our fuel supply chain during the pandemic and post pandemic period are hard lessons to learn from to prioritize transitioning to clean renewable energy as the most urgent step to take for transformation of our economy and society,” Vehe said.

As a result of the lessons learnt during the covid period, Vehe said the government has prioritised the energy sector reforms to change from the current conventional ways of managing and delivering electricity to reduce dependency on fossil fuel to deliver sustainable and affordable energy to meet the country’s socio-economic aspirations and commitments to achieve the SDG Goal 7.

The reforms entails making urgent structural adjustments to the policy, legal, regulatory, institutional setup, financial and management arrangements in the entire energy sector. 

According to Vehe, one major priority action among all is to create a new vibrant and dynamic regulatory regime and remove tariff settings from the national utility (Solomon Power) to an independent regulatory agency.  

The Government is optimistic that the reforms will result in at least in three key outcomes including;

  • Enhanced transparency in regulation, tariffs and quality of electricity delivered to consumers;
  • Creating market opportunities for private sector investments in renewable energy generation and creation of “green” jobs in the country. 
  • Adopting accelerated energy transition resulted in electricity sector decarbonisation and diminished dependency on fossil fuel.