Need for more renewable energy in Pacific - ADB
The ADB says there has been a spike in the need for investment in renewable energy in the Pacific as the cost of diesel continues to rise.
The Asian Development Bank says there has been a spike in the need for investment in renewable energy in the Pacific as the cost of diesel increases and becomes unaffordable.
A senior energy specialist, Anthony Maxwell, says the ADB will put 228 million US dollars into projects over the next three years, its biggest investment into Pacific energy yet.
Mr Maxwell says a structural shift from imported diesel to hydro, wind and solar power makes both economic and environmental sense.
He told Mary Baines about the ADB's new Pacific Energy Update 2014, and how it plans to reduce the region's heavily reliance on fossil fuels and support more sustainable growth.
ANTHONY MAXWELL: We've got 11 projects in the hydro space at the moment. We are getting a lot of demand for governments who still have hydropower capacity to develop. For example in Papua New Guinea we are helping PNG Power upgrade the Rouna hydropower cascade, which supplies Port Moresby. So that will be to increase capacity to accommodate the boom in Port Moresby. They are also looking to switch out a lot of their provincial centres to hydropower from high-cost diesel. Also in places in Solomon Islands, it was recently requested and we have approved, a project in Malaita, the Fiu river hydropower project, and we're assisting the government of Vanuatu at the moment with some feasibility studies for some potential hydropower sites. We are also looking at solar and wind, looking at Micronesia, Vanuatu, Tonga. Particularly interesting projects in Yap state in Micronesia, which is just kicking off, by putting in wind and solar and some improvements in diesel generation, it will slash the consumption of diesel by about a quarter, about 25 percent, so that will have a big impact there on the cost of generation.
MARY BAINES: What will the long-term benefits of the projects be to the region?
AM: It increases the percentage of renewable energy in the countries, and that reduces the diesel importation, which is very good from a macro-economic level and from an energy security perspective. Diesel will have a strong place in the energy mix in the Pacific for generations to come but it helps reduce that overall reliance on imported diesel. It will decrease the greenhouse gas emissions, which will have climate changing benefits. The net benefit from the Pacific is small because of the small size of the economies but it does send a strong signal to the developed countries that the Pacific Islands are taking it seriously and are switching out as far as possible from carbon emitting activities.
MB: So the region's reliance on fossil fuels will hopefully decrease quite dramatically over the next few years?
AM: It's coming down different speeds in different countries. Most countries now have renewable energy targets and most are investing in renewable energy. The transition to renewable energy is a long and complicated one. Countries like PNG, Fiji, Samoa invested heavily in hydropower about 10, 20 years ago. They've already seen low tariffs, reduced emissions from that investment. But many countries, particularly low lying atoll countries in Polynesia don't have hydropower, so now they're struggling with putting intermittent renewable energy sources onto their grids. Solar power is fantastic but the sun only shines for certain periods, the cloud goes over and you lose your generation, so bringing that onto the grid is quite a complicated system. And that structural shift does take a long time. The initial investments are being made now but in terms of reducing the power from diesel and renewable energy, some of these countries it will take them a long time to meet these targets.
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