Clean energy vision on Solomon Islands

Here is a new blogs based on the REEEP SAP series for the 2012 energy encyclopedia, this time focusing on the Solomon Islands and the situation there concerning energy and climate change mitigation. Due to the institutional framework clean energy is still far from established there, but there are some success stories regarding specific projects that show that much is possible for the future.

The Solomon Islands (SI) is an island country located in. Consisting of nearly 1,000 separate islands, the nation is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The country has been independent since 1978 and is a constitutional monarchy with currently the Queen of the Solomon Islands as their head of state. Apart from tourism as a source of income, many islanders produce cash crops such as copra and palm oil, and export dangerously overexploited timber. The islands are rich in undeveloped mineral resources such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold.

Out of a population of 559.189 less than 16% have access to electric power; 72% of the households in the capital city Honiara have electricity connection, but less than 10% of the rural population do.

At the moment the country is almost totally dependent on imported fossil fuels as 98% of electricity is generated by diesel generators. This leaves the island nation vulnerable to price fluctuations and energy insecurities and makes electric power generally expensive. At the same time, successful micro hydro power plants projects have been constructed during the 1980s and 1990s and provide local villages with secure access to clean energy.

Creative ideas are a solution to limited purchasing power; the Pacific Micro Energy Service Companies (PMESCO) project, jointly developed by the REEEP and the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands, has aimed to create a market demand for solar photovoltaic home systems powering LED lighting in remote rural areas. The project is financed by microcredits and involves neighboring businesses. A “cash‐for‐crop” system enables even very remote villagers to take up microcredits, and strong involvement of women has contributed to the success of this initiative. Women, who generally enjoy high standing in the island society, benefit by being freed from some time-consuming chores such as collecting wood or walking great distances to purchase kerosene and heavy indoor air pollution. Since overexploitation of cash crops could have dangerous consequences, the microcredit against crop concept has to be closely monitored to ensure the initiative won’t backfire eventually.

While these projects are inspiring, the implementation of a renewable energy policy has not yet been initiated, but the government has recognized the relevance of a shift towards clean energy. The Energy Division of the Department of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification will be responsible for putting the right policies and regulation in place.

Once institutional barriers are overcome, the islands have the potential to increase their energy security through renewables and efficiency measures. Hopefully the speed of development in that direction will accelerate.

Original article written by REEEP SEAP.  Previous blogs I wrote based on these articles include Tuvalu, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and Tonga.

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