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Pacific Islands countries switch to renewable energy source due to increasing fuel prices

Oct 17, 2008 - Huang Xingwei - Xinhua

The high cost of fuel forced the Pacific Islands Countries turn to alternative renewable energy sources.

"There is a clear demand for renewable energy in light of the growing fuel prices in recent times," said Solomone Fifita, manager of the Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) based at the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Program (SPREP).

A group of Pacific climate change experts were in Apia, the capital of Samoa, to attend the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable Meeting.

"If one has to look at the outcome of the Pacific Leaders Forum meeting in Niue, they have expressed their need to prioritize renewable energy," the Pacnews quoted Fifita as saying.

But most of these targets have only been formulated recently.

Only last month, Nauru committed that it will ensure that by 2015, at least 50 percent of its energy source would come from renewable means. Fiji on the other hand has committed that it will have a renewable energy utility by 2011. The small island of Niue has promised a 100 percent renewable energy economy, without setting a target date.

Samoa in 2006 committed that by 2030, 20 percent of its total energy consumption will be from renewable and clean sources.

Tonga on the other hand has set itself an ambitious plan to reach at least 40-50 percent in two years.

Marshall Islands have also come up with a target too because of the recent fossil fuel crisis there.

"A lot of them are online with their targets, whether they achieve them or not is something else, but its good to have a target that should be continuously reviewed and monitored to bring it down to something quantifiable." Fifita told the Pacnews.

The most common renewable energy sources now being pursued by a number of Pacific Island Countries are wind, hydro, geothermal and copra oil.

"The common characteristic is that the upfront cost is very high, but the ongoing maintenance cost is fairly low. Compare that to diesel generation, where you buy a generator cheaply and buy fuel everyday. In this day when price of fuel is going up rapidly, while the upfront cost is expensive, in many cases, from experience, the communities are able to afford" he added.

He said the Pacific Islands countries hoped the aid donors to provide the upfront capital and work the project out in a way that communities start putting aside some money for its future maintenance and replacement.

Under PIGGAREP, they have found that 70 percent of the Pacific Island's total population doesn't have access to electricity.

If Pacific Island countries and territories cam meet all their targets and change to renewable energy, it is possible to save 30 percent of energy by 2015.

Currently, the region burns up 8 million tons of fossil fuel for its energy source. This can be reduced by 2 million or 30 percent by 2015, said Fifita.

PIGGAREP covers 11 Pacific Island countries -- Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility for 2007-2012. It will cost 5.23 million U.S. dollars.