Home Sweet Renewable Home

Sep 21, 2015

Sea water seeping through the earth close to the airport during a king tide, causing flooding. Photo Credit: UNDP Samoa.

“Let us start with a simple quote,” said Mafalu Lotolua at the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation. 

“Home is where the heart is.” He laughs, “How many times have you heard that one?” Too many one supposes, but in Tuvalu this simple saying takes on a whole new meaning.

Tuvalu is a country that will be seriously affected by the rising sea levels. It lies mid-way between Australia and Hawai’i in the Pacific Ocean. It comprises of three reef islands and six atolls, with a population of 10,837. A key concern is that the islands and atolls that make up the nation on average rise only 4.6m above sea level. 

“With the sea levels rising the way they are, we face the very real possibility of losing our homes in the very near future if nothing is done,” explains Mafalu. “We already have to deal with the increasing king tides, cyclones and these are causing enough damage as is. Although Pacific Islands have contributed very little to the global climate change that is now causing rising sea levels, we are very committed to joining the efforts of reducing CO2-emissions.”  

This is why the Government of Tuvalu has created the Tuvalu Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Master Plan, Enetise Tutumau 2012 – 2020. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), is supporting a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Demonstration “Fale”, fale being the Polynesian word for house.

This Demonstration Fale will be run by the Tuvalu Electricity Corporation (TEC) and will be built on the north-western part of the TEC property in Funafuti. The overall goal of the Fale is to portray methods that utilise renewable energy which will lessen the energy demands and blend this with the traditional housing structure.   Further, it will be used to; 

a) demonstrate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies to the public of Tuvalu; 

b) to be used by TEC’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Unit as an office and educational facility; 

c) to be used by TEC and relevant third parties for the testing of equipment and appliances; 

d) to be a meeting place of community stakeholders, donors and guests; and

e) to encourage community discussion on renewable energy and energy efficiency. 

The construction of the Fale will be completed by local builders under the guidance of an experienced master builder who is well versed with design codes and traditional building methods. The Fale will be built using environmentally friendly building materials, recyclable products, energy conserving water supply systems, waste minimisation, treatment and recycling systems, energy-efficient and resource conserving construction practices and the preservation of the Tuvaluan culture.

Mafalu feels optimistic about the outcomes that the Fale could generate. 

“In the long term, relocation of people may be a necessary option for Tuvaluans, but right now, most important is to secure people and their homes. The fale is being built in a very public place, so members of the community can easily see and learn the ways in which these new technologies can benefit the individual household. Yet maybe most importantly, it shows the way in which we can construct our homes in a way that is more resilient to climate change.”

While the Fale may only be a demonstration site at this stage, the fact that it is providing a new and innovative way in which to adapt to climate change and to ensure that they are able to continue living in their homes. 

As Mafalu points out, “we have an opportunity to do something for our future and as the building of this Fale symbolises, we are trying. However there is a need for a bigger push globally to reduce the impacts of climate change, and large, energy-intense countries should lead the way.”

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