USP Co-Organises International Workshop Series on Energy Resilience in the Pacific
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Photo legend: Screenshots of the synthesis workshop
The University of the South Pacific
collaborated with University of New South Wales (UNSW), Loughborough University and University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) to organise a series of online workshops with the theme: Energy resilience in Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
This series was part of the Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference hosted by Monash University and the second Urban Resilience Asia Pacific Conference (URAP 2) and was held in the first week of December 2020.
This event was also supported by ITP Renewables and GSES who are global leaders in renewable energy engineering, strategy and compliance, training and consultancy; and the Commonwealth Scientific and industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)The first workshop titled, “Planning and Investing in More Resilient Energy Systems” was jointly chaired by UNSW academics Dr. Anna Bruce and Dr. Iain Macgill.
The panel discussants were Ms. Apisake Soakai, former Pacific Coordinator IRENA and CEO Nauru Utilities Authority; Mr. Akuila Tawake, Deputy Director, Geoscience, Energy and Marine Division of the Secretariat for the Pacific Community; (SPC); Mr. Manu Rawali from UPNG and UNSW; Ms. Julia McDonald, ITP renewables Australia and Dr. Atul Raturi from USP with an adjunct appointment at UNSW.
The discussion was centred on the challenges and opportunities for design and implementation of resilient electricity systems – both on grid and off-grid. The importance of planning trajectory besides just a plan, data availability, VRE integration into island grids and capacity building was highlighted during the discussion.
The workshop also deliberated upon the key findings of a report prepared by UNSW, USP, Loughborough students and staff dealing with case studies from Australia, Fiji, PNG, and Tokelau. This report is available online for those interested.
The second workshop titled, “Energy Resilience and the Political Economy” was chaired by Dr. Paul Munro from UNSW. The speakers for this session were Mr. Sam Grant from The Centre for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Dr. Iwona Bisaga from Loughborough University and Shanil Samarakoon from UNSW.
This session looked at energy systems as ‘social technical systems’ and deliberated on the question ‘energy for whom and at what cost?’ The role of private sector and companies like d-light, Sun King etc. in supporting the off-grid electricity usage in various countries from Africa to the Pacific was discussed. Dr. Bisaga talked about a project dealing with modern energy cooking services in Rwanda while Sam Grant discussed the importance of financing, standards and product testing for off-grid systems. Shanil has co-founded a solar company that supports off-grid electricity access in Malawi. He raised points about energy justice, regulation and standards in relation to off-grid systems. There was also a discussion about the impact of COVID-19 on off-grid systems globally.
The third workshop dealt with one of the most crucial issues in energy access – community participation. The workshop was co-chaired by Dr. Long Seng To from Loughborough University and Dr. Atul Raturi from USP. The all-female panel comprised Ms. Makereta Lomaloma from SPC. Ms. Katerina Syngekallis from Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and Ms Pauline Komolong, an independent WASH consultant from PNG who has worked with SPC and UNICEF previously. The panel members were also joined by Mr. Peter Johnston, a veteran energy consultant as a discussant.
In her presentation, Pauline Komolong emphasised the need for community consultation for any development project and that they should co-design and co-own the installations. She also talked about the role of energy in WASH space and how payment for facilities helps the sustainability of interventions. With her experience in designing and installing solar off-grid systems, Katerina deliberated upon the planning process for resilient systems. She also explained how energy can be an enabler for resilient and diversified livelihoods.
Makereta Lomaloma talked about the very essential issue of gender inclusion in any community project development. She mentioned how women were normally not included in community discussions in the Pacific which must change. A Google Jamboard based exercise involving the audience was also conducted as a part of this workshop. This activity helped identify key research questions that would support developing resilient community projects.
The topics suggested were focused on gender and diversity, clean cooking, developing best practices and data acquisition for monitoring and planning.
The final workshop was a synthesis workshop where all the session chairs came together and presented a summary of their sessions and also discussed the way forward. This workshop was held under the auspices of UREP2 and was livestreamed. The recording of this session is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoL5bDoUBl4.
According to Dr. Raturi, this collaborative work is expected to result in establishing resilient energy systems in the Pacific while supporting the energy-water-food nexus. Increasing frequency of severe cyclones and other climate change impacts on energy infrastructure such efforts are of the utmost importance.
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