Samoa's renewable energy sector: what is the state of play?

By The Editorial Board 26 June 2022, 6:00AM

The statement by the Minister of Works Transport and Infrastructure in the parliament recently on renewable energy must have left everyone flabbergasted.

Samoa’s transition to renewable energy by 2025 was a given – oh well, that was the messaging we were getting, during the term of the last Administration – so you can imagine the shock at revelations by Olo Fiti Vaai that the last government had ceased renewable energy development projects.

An article (Government turns down US$120 million guarantee proposal) in the Sunday 24 June 2022 edition of the Sunday Samoan reported on Olo’s statement to the House.

Apparently, the Minister gave the parliament an update on the latest developments in Samoa’s sustainable energy sector, when he revealed that the Government had rejected a renewable energy company’s proposal for the State to guarantee its US$120 million investment in the country.

The Minister said upon the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Administration getting into office last year, they discovered that the previous government had ceased renewable energy development projects.

But that decision will be overturned according to Olo, who assured that they will get those projects back on track.

“By next week we should resume renewable energy not only for companies but also for communities,” he told the Members of Parliament.

It is mind boggling that the former government opted to pull the plug on projects associated with such a critically important sector, especially with the 2025 transition deadline just around the corner, and in the face of rising fuel costs globally.

So do we know what is the status of the country’s push to 100 per cent renewable energy?

We note the marketing strategy of the Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) is on song with regards to renewable energy. Have a look at the entity’s website under the renewable energy tab:

“E.P.C. operates 7 hydro plants in Upolu, at Taelefaga, Lalomauga, Alaoa, Loto Samasoni, Fale ole Fee, Fuluasou and Tafitoala-Fausaga, and 1 in Savaii at Vailoa Palauli; solar farms at Tuanaimato, E.P.C. compounds at Tanugamanono, Vaitele, Salelologa, Mapuifagalele and Apolima Island; and a wind farm at Vailoa Aleipata on Upolu Island. 

“Additionally, four (4) Independent Power Producers (IPP) are generating electricity using solar energy and connected to the E.P.C. grid, for distribution.

“The E.P.C. is also working towards achieving the national goal of 100% renewable energy for power generation.”

This is all good and we appreciate all that background from E.P.C. But where is Samoa now in terms of its 2025 renewable energy transition deadline following the COVID-19 pandemic two-year shutdown and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February this year which drove up global fuel prices?

In September 2019 the E.P.C. Acting General Manager, Fui Mau Simanu told delegates who attended the 4th Regional Energy and Transportation Ministers Conference in Apia, that Samoa’s renewable energy transition had reached 50 per cent.

"We are about 50 per cent renewable penetration, and that is very very impressive when we compare to other islands,” Fui said at that time.

“So that was the main purpose for these delegates to see for themselves what we’ve done and what we have achieved so far.”

However, as we mentioned above, a lot has happened within Samoa and globally, which would have had a direct impact on our country's targets. Is Samoa still on track with its 50 per cent renewable energy penetration as mentioned by the E.P.C. Acting G.M. close to three years ago?

And what about those two giant wind turbines at a wind farm at Vailoa Aleipata which according to local residents have not been spinning?

It is good to see the new Administration get renewable energy development projects back on track, but local authorities should be more diligent in the type of partners they choose to work with to develop this sector in Samoa.

The renewable energy sector globally is getting millions of dollars in investment, but with it comes corruption that specifically targets vulnerable developing countries. 

Risks such as the US$120 million guarantee proposal that the unidentified company was seeking from the Government should not be entertained, especially at a time with the national economy in doldrums, and the potential adverse effects of taking on such a risk in our natural disaster-prone country. 

Foreign companies that step forward seeking such guarantees from the Government are not friends of Samoa and should be treated as such.

By The Editorial Board 26 June 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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