Hare-brained projects are a waste of money

By The Editorial Board 14 March 2024, 10:00AM

When you search the definition of the term hare-brained, the dictionaries, not one but quite a few, give the meaning as foolish, absurd, ill-thought of, and devoid of good sense or judgment. When it comes to government projects that were supposed to make life easier for people, many have been just that, hare-brained.

A good example is the $14 million biomass project at Mulifanua intended to generate power to supply the country’s electricity grid. The biomass station sits idle after the injection of millions of tala, the Parliament was told.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster confirmed the Government being broke from the renewable energy plant when he spoke in Parliament on Tuesday. 

Toeolesulusulu said the biomass plant cost the Government $14 million and it was not being utilised most of the time.

In November 2020 the Afolau Biomass Gasification Power Plant in Mulifanua was officially opened with plans to produce 5,000,000 kilowatts an hour of electricity per annum and was the first facility of its kind in Samoa.

The project was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) via the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the European Union, and the Government of Germany’s Government Agency of International Cooperation (EU-GIZ ASCE). 

The feasibility study must have shown that there was a potential for the biomass project to work however, after the opening it was realised that there was a need for additional manpower to do the work to keep the biomass plant operational. This was not thought of and the issue was never taken seriously enough to be solved.

While the donors did what they could, the commitment from the government seemed to be lacking. This would have certainly taken the load off EPC in terms of power generation but it was not properly thought of from our end. Millions of dollars have been wasted and now the plant collects dust.

This would not sit well with the development partners who helped fund this and now they would think twice before going into any other projects. Is this a sign of the type of projects the government would invest in once the loss and damage financing mechanism starts to pay up?

The second such scheme that was highlighted was wind turbines in Aleipata. The Electric Power Corporation has no intention of installing additional turbines because the turbines have a capacity of producing 245 kilowatts of power but to date, the energy produced hasn’t reached 10 kilowatts.

The parliament was told that there was not enough feasibility study on the location to get the wind speed needed. It shows that people knew from the beginning that this was a site where the wind speeds were not enough to power turbines. Yet, we went ahead and used up thousands of dollars.

There are solar farms spread around Samoa and none of them are connected to the grid and if nothing is done about them sooner, then they will be of no use, it would be just a waste of money. Similarly, certain ideas mooted to grow the agriculture and fisheries sector also fit this criteria where money has been spent, mostly by donors but there is no result to show for it. For example, the talomua has not been working yet and is still being promoted.

The Pacific are our closest allies and Samoa shares similar weather and topography with most of them. Some of these nations have tried and tested projects that have worked and could very well work for Samoa as well.

The solar grids can be localised to the communities around them and instead of joining them to the national grid, have a smaller grid that just supplies one or two villages. It would be maintained by EPC and charges would apply.

Other such projects have worked and can be custom-fitted to suit Samoa. The last thing we need is a track record to show that we have not been able to do the most with aid funding because then the development partners would think twice about backing such projects.

By The Editorial Board 14 March 2024, 10:00AM
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