Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, Dr Mary Anne Teariki, Dr Ramona Tiatia, Ian Shearer.
As noted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, access to affordable clean energy has been recognised as being a vital component of sustainable development. All sectors of society need access to electricity, ranging from businesses and infrastructure to families in their homes. In the Pacific, an increasing awareness of the benefits of renewable energy has seen a growth in the use of solar PV, wind, biogas, and hydro for those countries with water resources. Access to renewable energy sources has also been identified as having an important role in building the resilience of countries to better manage risks and disturbances, such as natural disasters and the onset of climate change impacts. With this in mind, the countries of Kiribati and Samoa were selected to examine how new renewable energy might strengthen the ability of these countries to manage such risks. These countries were selected for their similarities as small island developing countries, and also for their differences. Unlike Kiribati, which is made up of small atoll islands, the topography of Samoa is volcanic and rich in natural resources. In terms of risks, while Kiribati is at great risk from climate change, including increased sea levels, Samoa also faces significant threats from natural disasters, such as tropical cyclones, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
In February and March 2018, in-depth interviews were conducted with stakeholders in Kiribati and Samoa on the role of renewable energy in underpinning sustainable development and increasing resilience. The interviews highlighted the commitment of these countries to increase the level of renewable energy, but reinforced some of the challenges facing them. Some of the challenges include the upfront costs of establishing new renewable energy projects, and the capacity of a skilled workforce to manage and fix equipment. Notwithstanding these challenges, the project has uncovered the potential of renewable energy to improve the lives of the people of Kiribati and Samoa. These include, the ability of renewable energy to light houses, enabling children and youth to study at night and for women to run their business from home. Improved lighting also increased safety for women and children, and solar hand rods provided valuable lighting for I-Kiribati going fishing at night. In Samoa, increased renewable energy projects have provided greater stability for the electricity grid, resulting in fewer disruptions and reducing the electricity costs for consumers. The research discusses how renewable energy can improve socio-economic development and improve the health and well-being of all people.
With the analysis of the data completed, the project will be forwarded for peer review by 5 October 2018.