Towards a Solution
Through the “Solarization of Head of State Residences in PIDF Member Countries” initiative, the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) and the non-profit organization Solar Head of State (SHOS) aimed to raise the profile of the installation and usage of solar energy in PICs with the Heads of State championing the technology.
This initiative brings together a regional organization (PIDF, SHOS), a Global-South Development partner (the Government of India through the India-UN Development Partnership Fund managed by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation [UNOSSC]), and an executing agency (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP]). It also brings in Solaria, a private sector partner based in the United States of America, which is donating the solar panels.
The initiative is being implemented in 11 PICs: Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
By having a solar system installed on public buildings, including the executive administrative residence of a country, the country’s leadership is given first-hand experience with proven benefits of renewable technologies, which further encourages the development of energy policies that favours the adoption of renewable energy. Each system is a demonstration project to inspire the mass adoption of solar energy and other renewable energy technologies by the citizens of the country and around the world. The projects can be used to engage the general public with the benefits of renewable energy through an effective media campaign and community outreach. By bringing global expertise in the design and installation of solar systems to each project, SHOS and PIDF facilitate the transfer of critical skills and knowledge to the participating PICs.
SHOS has a proven track record and have already installed these installations in the Maldives (Official Presidential Residence), St. Lucia (public residence of the Governor-General) and Jamaica (National Executive Office, Jamaica House).
Building on previous work, the project will work diligently and proactively to arrange appropriate complementary and/or joint activities, and where relevant, develop practical follow-up activities. The PIDF and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), with Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) funding, are collaborating on the ongoing multi-country “Capacity Building to Strengthen Sustainable Implementation of Renewable Energy Technologies for Rural Energy Access” project. The project is being implemented in three of the countries, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and PIDF will lead implementation in the Solomon Islands. Possible areas of collaboration include training on the installation, operation and maintenance of solar PV systems, public awareness raising on sustainable energy (e.g. unveiling of the solar PV projects while announcing new national energy policies and plans), etc. Furthermore, UNDP has ongoing sustainable energy projects in Tuvalu, Nauru and Vanuatu as well as projects being developed in other countries.
All PICs have submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs), and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) submitted its second in November 2018. The national climate change mitigation pledges address some of the major sources of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but the focus is on the energy sector. Most of the NDCs include GHG emission reduction targets, and some have targets both for an unconditional and a conditional mitigation component with common needs including finance, technology support and/or capacity development. Some ultimately aim for 100 percent renewable energy-based penetration by 2030, including Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The most important element of this initiative is the partnerships involved. Multiple organizations based in different countries and regions of the world are involved, including from the public sector, the private sector and civil society: (i) in PICs, partners include the offices of the head of state/building of national importance, power utilities and private companies; (ii) at regional level, partners include PIDF and UNDP; and (iii) at the international level, SHOS, Solaria, the Government of India and UNOSSC.
There is potential to upscale the individual installations to make them more than a simple PV installation, but full-on 100 percent renewable electricity for state houses, including battery storage and other sustainability efforts on the grounds of the residences. These efforts could include electrification of garden maintenance tools, use of electric vehicles by government officials or garden workers, installation of electric vehicle charging stations, etc. There is some scope for upscaling in the Pacific Islands region; for example, solar PV systems could be installed on executive residences in Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Samoa. However, there is significant scope for upscaling in other Small Island Developing States (SIDS).