Associate Dean at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation, Professor Anshuman Razdan, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Works, Transport, and Public Utilities, Commander Francis Kean, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra, U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, Her Excellency, Frankie A. Reed, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment, Dr Anjeela Jokhan and the Head of the School of Engineering and Physics, Dr Atul Raturi at the VOCTEC launch.
A new program to help promote clean energy in the Pacific was launched at the University of the South Pacific in Suva on 12 February 2013.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the Arizona State University (ASU), is implementing the Vocational Training and Education for Clean Energy (VOCTEC) program to help improve the sustainability of renewable energy investments and infrastructure by increasing the regional capacity of qualified technical trainers and technicians to install, operate, and troubleshoot off-grid solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.
VOCTEC, in partnership with USP, is implementing a two-year solar PV capacity-building program customized for the Pacific Islands to support the sustainability of off-grid solar energy installations and help in the reduction of carbon emissions.
Fifteen participants, including three women, from Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands are expected to finish the two-week training for instructors on 15 February. This training focuses on the design, installation, operation and maintenance of stand-alone solar PV systems.
The invited guests which included representatives from USAID, ASU and USP, as well as members of the diplomatic corps, senior government officials and heads of regional and international organisations were welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment at USP, Dr Anjeela Jokhan.
Speaking at the launch, the U.S. Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, Her Excellency, Frankie A. Reed pointed out that the Pacific Islands region is among the most vulnerable in the world to the adverse effects of climate change, but the least able to respond.
Highlighting the U.S. Government’s increased engagement to the advancement of clean energy in the Pacific Islands, the Ambassador said, the U.S. Government is working with local and international partners to increase the capacity of communities, civil society, governments, and regional institutions to address challenges resulting from the negative impacts of climate change.
“The VOCTEC program is one of the efforts that we will be implementing in the 12 Pacific Island nations in the next five years that will build the region’s capacity to promote renewable energy,” she added.
The program will draw specialists from other countries and develop training partnerships through USP. The University will also serve as a hub for VOCTEC’s regional activities, which will include trainings to enhance the capacities of the vocational and educational institutions.
The Ambassador congratulated the first batch of the training participants and acknowledged VOCTEC program partners, ASU and USP, for their commitment to the future of the region.
The assistance provided by the U.S. Government to help develop human capacity for sustainable development in the Pacific was greatly welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, Professor Rajesh Chandra.
While acknowledging the good relationship USP has enjoyed with USA, the Vice-Chancellor expressed his gratitude to the U.S. Government for their assistance in the recent past on projects including climate change and scientific research.
The VOCTEC program will help build skilled renewable energy manpower in the region, which Professor Chandra stressed, is essential for the expansion and maintenance of sustainable energy technologies.
“We envisage the USP site to become the core training centre for this program and to also provide oversight to the regional training activities,” he stated.
Professor Chandra reaffirmed USP’s commitment towards the sustainable development of the region, and to collaborate with USAID and ASU on the program.
The Permanent Secretary for Fiji’s Ministry of Works, Transport, and Public Utilities, Commander Francis Kean, shared that the over reliance on carbon-based fuels by Pacific Island Countries (PICs), not only results in higher energy prices but also accelerates the effects of climate change.
Given the current levels of energy demand and the uncertainty in future global oil prices, he further said that, a shift towards a low-carbon economy is essential.
In Fiji’s case, Commander Kean said the Government has provided substantial financial assistance to the energy sector in Fiji.
The Fiji Government has installed over 3600 solar home systems in rural and remote areas and a further 2000 solar home systems are expected to be installed this year. The Government has also implemented three biofuel mills in the maritime regions. Last year, the Fiji Electricity Authority commissioned a new 40MW Nadarivatu hydro power project taking the renewable generation mix to an average of 60 percent of the grid demand.
The Permanent Secretary highlighted that the VOCTEC program would help PICs to strengthen energy security and to reduce the impacts of climate change.
“The VOCTEC Pacific region program will no doubt be of great interest to all our governments, particularly in the identification of gaps in training and capacity building needs for the effective implementation of policy initiatives by PICs,” he said.
ASU’s engineering faculty members, headed by Dr. G. Tamizhmani, an industry leader in the solar PV field, developed the training materials and syllabus.
The Associate Dean at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation, Professor Anshuman Razdan said that ASU is pleased to support the advancement of clean energy in the Pacific.
“With the support of USAID and USP, we can help build local capacity that will strengthen the sustainability of renewable energy investments in the Pacific Islands,” he commented.
The vote of thanks was delivered by the Head of the School of Engineering and Physics at USP, Dr Atul Raturi.