Monday, 8 July 2013

Light shines on renewable energy in the Pacific
26 May 2013

A Canterbury researcher is investigating renewable energy options for Pacific island nations in a bid to cut reliance on expensive diesel generators. Many households, businesses and schools that use the expensive generators struggle to pay their power bills, University of Canterbury Pacific Studies PhD student Emily Laing said. At the Pacific Energy Summit in March, New Zealand pledged $65 million to renewable energy projects in the South Pacific.

Ms Laing was looking at solar power projects in the region, and has already helped with the installation of panels in five high schools in Tonga. The systems were installed with a goal of reducing and, in some cases, completely eliminating power costs for the schools which previously, were struggling to keep up with their bills, she said. "With the introduction of solar power in the Pacific Islands it is important each project is well planned to ensure it's sustainable long term for the recipient country".

The introduction of solar power in the South Pacific was reasonably recent and was predominantly funded through aid organisations, she said. Many smaller Islands in the Pacific, such as Tonga, relied almost entirely on aid and had barely any business enterprise or exports, so most of the solar installations were funded by international aid agencies.

"This means the recipient country has little control over the timing, scale and scope of the projects, which can cause issues when it comes to implementing and sustaining the systems", Ms Laing said. "I want to create a project management framework specific to solar installations in the South Pacific to guide and help the management of future projects", she said.