Thursday, November 23, 2017

Development

Pacific: United Arab Emirates Agrees to Fund Solar Energy Projects in the Pacific Islands

The United Arab Emirates has signed a partnership agreement with a series of highly vulnerable Pacific Island nations to develop four new USD 50 million, 1.8 MW solar voltaic energy projects.

The Solomon Islands - Photo Courtesy of Vladi Private Islands

The Solomon Islands – Photo Courtesy of Vladi Private Islands

Whilst they may not be known for having the best track record on environmental matters, reports are emerging that the United Arab Emirates have signed a series of partnership agreements promising to fund four far-reaching renewable energy projects in the Pacific islands region as part of the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week – a yearly platform that addresses the challenges of energy and water security, climate risk and sustainable development.

According to local industry journal Gulf Business, the projects, which will focus primarily on solar technology, will be concentrated in the likes of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and the Solomon Islands. A spokesperson for state news agency WAM explained that the money used to fund the projects will be taken from the USD 50 million UAE-Pacific Partnership Fund, with further grant funding sourced from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

The projects, which represent the biggest one of the largest investments into renewable energy within the Pacific region, look set to make a huge impact to the highly vulnerable island nations. Indeed, it is expected that these new, USD 50 million, 1.8 MW projects could save their respective nations as much as 1 million litres of fuel per year – equating to an annual cost saving of USD 1 to 2 million and off-setting an incredible 2,795 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum.

According to recent statistics, many island nations in the Pacific region are forced to set aside as much as 10 per cent of their gross domestic product for petroleum imports. By reducing the dependency on expensive fossil fuels and instead making the switch to renewable energy sources (such as the aforementioned solar photo voltaic plants), these cash-strapped governments will be able to free up large parts of their budget for the likes of infrastructure investments, education and health service upgrades.

“Renewable energy is one of the most cost-competitive power sources to deliver electricity to communities across the Pacific,” said Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and chairman of UAE energy company Masdar. “For a region facing some of the highest energy costs in the world, access to sustainable sources of power, such as wind and solar, offer the Pacific a viable solution to enhance energy security and economic growth.”

The projects represent the United Arab Emirates’ second foray into photo-voltaic energy in the Pacific region (after November 2013’s La’a Lahi ‘Big Sun’ solar plant in Tonga) and are set to consist of a 600 kWp solar photovoltaic plant in the Solomon Islands, a 600 kWp solar photovoltaic plant in the Marshall Islands, a 500 kWp solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in Nauru and three further solar photo voltaic units in Palau as part of a clean energy loan program. Construction is scheduled to finish in 2016.

“As part of our mission to enable developing countries to achieve sustainable development, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development has partnered with Masdar to support these countries unlock their vast underutilised renewable potentials,” said Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi, director general, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. “Such collaborative efforts demonstrate how developing countries’ growing appetite for energy can be met affordably and sustainably. For the remote islands of the Pacific, access to clean energy is a critical component to enable their economic and social development.”

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