Energy innovation's value much greater than savings

News that the state-owned power utility has overhauled its operations to encourage the generation of renewable energy is highly encouraging.

That this call is being answered by some of the world’s most inventive green power producers, who are making competing bids to build renewable projects onto the national energy grid, is even moreso. 

We have, in these pages, taken aim at the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) most recently over a spate of blackouts last year and its failure to adequately explain them.

But for its exploration of innovative ways to achieve the national target of transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025, we can only congratulate the E.P.C. for showing vision.

The E.P.C.’s involvement with foreign partners in a project designed to attract companies to bid on new projects in Samoa was revealed on the front page of the Sunday Samoan (“World's best renewable energy producers drawn to Samoa”.)

The innovation is striking and appears to already be proving effective,

There are projections that it could result in achieving the renewable target a year earlier and news that tens of companies are now expressing interest in helping Samoa achieve its energy transition. 

For those who missed Sunday’s story, the change, while doubtlessly not an easy undertaking, is remarkably simple in its vision.

Investment in green energy projects, particularly overseas, is typically no easy task. 

Acquiring information about the specifications of a nation’s power grid alone is a time-consuming task and one that cannot always be reliably achieved.

That only adds to the complexity and the upfront investment of time and money that is required to bid on a contract to construct new energy infrastructure, particularly in an overseas country where business and Government moves might be unfamiliar. 

In recognition of this, the E.P.C.’s reform has been to make it as easy as possible for companies to familiarise themselves with the internal workings of our electricity network.

GridMarket, an American company, is mapping out the national electricity network to provide these companies with the electronic blueprints of Samoa’s electricity network.

Working with the E.P.C. they mapped out all the possible areas for the installation of new projects; existing electricity inputs such as power plants and powerlines. 

Together they deployed drones as well as teams of manual labourers to identify and survey the sites that would be best for new investment. 

The information was made freely available online so that prospective bidders on Government contracts for new power projects could access information they would never have had before. 

With this transparent disclosure, the E.P.C. has found a highly inventive way for a nation as small as Samoa to climb the ladder of nations seeking to attract investment: by removing obstacles from the path of prospective investors. 

And the results, another project partner dedicated to bringing the island to the attention of international renewables producers, the Island Resilience Partnership, say are already bearing fruit.

The Government received 22 indications of interest from bidders for a call for interested parties to bid to deliver cheap and stable green power that reliably fits onto the national grid.

The results, Mr. Davis, the C.E.O. of GridMarket are that Samoa is now in the enviable position of being able to choose from among "cream of the crop" of independent clean energy producers.

Such a position is not one a national market the size Samoa often occupies.

Mr. Davis forecasts that the initiative could create enough cheaper renewable energy to save Samoa, on average a cost of between $25 to $37 million a year, with total project savings exceeding that figure by several times.

If these ambitious goals are realised, the value of this change to Samoa will be many times more than the amount consumers save per kilowatt.

For us to have achieved a complete transition to renewable energy earlier than expected will lend our international standing on this issue considerably more weight. 

We can provide an example for other nations in the Pacific to follow, as we address what is an existential threat not just to Samoa but the entire region.

And by doing so despite our relative size, we can bring greater moral authority to regional groupings such as the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum at which Australia watered down a commitment to phasing out coal power. 

If Samoa cannot find a way toward achieving renewable power then what excuse could larger, wealthier nations possibly have?

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