Reaching for the Sun: Unlocking Solar Energy for Samoa

Aug 22, 2014

The new solar energy systems was unlocked through a feasibility study funded by the Pacific Island Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP), implemented by UNDP through SPREP and backed by GEF. Photo credit: SPREP.

Samoa, like many developing small island countries, is heavily dependent on fossil fuel for power generation; almost 70% of its energy comes from petroleum products. But these costly fuels expose the country to the unpredictable price of petrol imports and produce large quantities of carbon emissions. Now, Samoa is reaching for the sun with three new solar energy systems. Supplying renewable power to eight hundred homes, these will help to reduce the country’s annual fuel consumption by some 190,000 litres, saving over US$250,000 and cutting more than 400 tonnes CO2 of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The three new solar energy systems have a combined capacity of 546kW and are located on the two main islands of Upolu and Savaii. They were made possible through a generous US$4 million in grants from the Government of Japan, one of the world’s largest investors in renewable energy, via the Pacific Environment Community fund. This investment, in turn, was unlocked through a feasibility study funded by the Pacific Island Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP): a project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and backed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

“The feasibility study funded by PIGGAREP gave Japan the necessary data to move forward with the funding and construction of the solar systems in Samoa,” said Tetsuji Nakasone, project formulation advisor for the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Samoa. “We are very pleased to see how well the systems on Upolu and Savaii are functioning. In cooperation with other development partners, we will continue our engagement in the area of renewable energy in Samoa and other Pacific Island countries."

 Tetsuji Nakasone and Rapa at the site. Photo credit: SPREP.

The US$5.23 million PIGGAREP project started in 2008 with funding from the GEF and, later, additional US$3 million from Denmark through the SIDS DOCK support programme. The project is a joint collaboration between UNDP, SPREP and the governments of the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. It focuses on the scaling up of renewable energy solutions through policy development, skills and capacity building and public awareness raising. It also helps in conducting feasibility studies, such as the US$60,000 solar feasibility study, environmental impact assessment and system design work that paved the way for the three new facilities on Samoa.

“2014 marks the first year of the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All. Through projects like PIGGAREP, the relatively modest funding for feasibility studies and baseline data has proven essential in unlocking larger investments in renewable energy and achieve progress towards the goal of access to sustainable energy for all,” said Lizbeth Cullity, UNDP Resident Representative, Samoa.

Installation of Samoa’s three new solar energy systems was completed in early 2014 and has helped to build local skills and capacity in the growing renewable energy industry, laying a foundation for broader long-term economic and environmental benefits. 60% of Samoa’s total electricity generation is expected to come from renewable energy within three years.

"Samoa's dependency on fossil fuel is an environmental and financial challenge. We must increase production of renewable energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuel and its associated costs,” said Rapa Young, solar project manager of the Electric Power Company, the only power producer and seller in Samoa.

UNDP works in close partnership with the Governments of the Pacific region alongside other development partners, providing them with technical, normative and analytical expertise; funds; and organizational and coordination support to assist in efforts to attain their development aspirations. UNDP also manages regional and national projects/ programmes in the areas of Democratic Governance, Sustainable Livelihoods/Poverty Reduction, Crisis Prevention and Recovery, Environment and Energy and Gender Mainstreaming, etc.

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